Turkish Groups Provide Industry, Government Bridge
A major aim is to serve as a forum for the nation's defense companies to alleviate concerns over fiscal austerity.
Non-governmental organizations serve a valuable role in bridging industry and the military in Turkey. The NATO stalwart has developed its own high-technology defense sector, which now is expanding its export market penetration. This sector also stands to play a major role as NATO develops a technology acquisition architecture in which its member nations play complementary roles rather than competing ones. Because of the need for close coordination between government and industry, non-governmental organizations carry out essential missions in the defense establishment.
Representing a nation that historically has stood at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, the Turkey Chapter of AFCEA International reflects a very active defense industrial community supporting the needs of both the Turkish government and its trading partner nations. Founded in November 1989, the chapter itself has a unique history, according to Col. Ismet Bora Büyüköner, TUA (Ret.), president of the AFCEA Turkey chapter.
“The AFCEA Turkey Chapter was founded at the directive of the Turkish Ministry of National Defense and the Turkish General Staff, under the leadership of the Undersecretariat of the Turkish Defense Industries,” he outlines.
The chapter has been approved as a scientific purpose association by the defense ministry, which means that members of the Turkish Armed Forces are allowed to become AFCEA members with permission from superior officers. Membership in the chapter is open to individuals and companies that “operate in the field of communications, electronics and information technology,” according to the chapter,’s website.
At present, the chapter includes 18 corporate members and 39 individual members. Individual members range from electronics and computer science students studying at Turkish colleges and universities, to employees and officers of the companies that make up the defense industry, to members of the military. Volunteers manage the activities of the chapter through the chapter board of directors, and also through a separate chapter board of auditors.
Just as AFCEA chapters do in the United States and around the world, the Turkey Chapter serves as a forum for discussion among industry, government and academia in the areas of information technology, communications and electronics. In September, the chapter sponsored its annual Military Electronics Seminar, held in Ankara, the Turkish capital. The theme of the meeting was “Developments in Military Electronics Systems and Technologies,” and the goal of the conference was to serve as a platform for the exchange of information and ideas concerning advanced technologies, Büyüköner says. Topics included aerospace technologies, advanced communications, electro-optic technology, data acquisitions and control, and unmanned air and ground technologies. Six hundred people attended this year,’s seminar, while 35 companies exhibited their technologies and products.
The chapter’s other primary meeting for the year has more of a regional focus. Last month, the Turkey Chapter presented its fifth annual Naval Systems Seminar, also in Ankara, held under the auspices of the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries. “Hundreds of naval professionals were invited to witness presentations on multiple perspectives of naval defense topics, including operational, technical and international,” Büyüköner explains. The meeting drew military and civilian defense experts from nations in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, western Europe and southwest Asia. More than 60 companies exhibited at this meeting, which was attended by more than 1,100 people.
Establishing and maintaining strong working ties with other defense industry organizations is another important function of the chapter, Büyüköner says. “The AFCEA Turkey Chapter has a very close relationship with the Turkish Defense Industry Manufacturers Association (SaSaD) that was established in 1990, also with the support of the Ministry of National Defense. In January 2012, civilian aerospace manufacturers were included in the scope of the association, and the name became ‘Defense and Aerospace Industries Manufacturers Association,’” he explains. SaSaD is an association that represents producers of defense systems and equipment for domestic and international markets, with 89 main member companies and 37 candidate member companies. He adds that, “SaSaD’s mission is to contribute to a powerful defense sector by gathering Turkish defense industry establishments under the SaSaD umbrella.”
Some corporate members of the AFCEA Turkey Chapter also are part of the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF). This is an umbrella organization that oversees and owns controlling interest in 18 defense and non-defense companies exporting more than 20 different products. Affiliates include ASELSAN, a communications and information technology company; Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), an aviation and aerospace technology company; HAVELSAN, a firm specializing in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies; and ROKETSAN, which makes satellite systems and a number of rocket-based tactical weapons systems. Primary customers of TAFF-affiliated companies include the Turkish armed forces and clients in 40 different countries with which Turkey trades.
The AFCEA Turkey Chapter works to promote the study of science and mathematics by providing scholarships to eligible college students. Some members of the chapter are students who also belong to defense technology clubs on their campuses. The chapter also organizes networking events in which students meet and socialize with representatives from corporate member companies. Through the auspices of the AFCEA Educational Foundation, the chapter also provides support to local mathematics and science teachers in Turkish schools.
The current push toward fiscal austerity among the nations with which Turkey’s defense companies export is the biggest concern facing the Turkey Chapter now, Büyüköner emphasizes. Members are working to alleviate concern over possible budget cuts by using the chapter to keep communications open between defense firms and the Turkish government. The chapter also is working to increase its corporate membership, he says.