Defense industry: Cyber, anti-riot, special forces emerging niche markets

Defense industry: Cyber, anti-riot, special forces emerging niche markets

Turkey's local defense companies and their foreign partners may see a near-boom in smaller but specialist industries in the coming years, including cyber technologies, anti-riot equipment and a variety of gear for the country's special forces, industry sources agree Hurriyetdailynews reported.

"These will probably become niche markets with a growing number of players in the years ahead," a senior defense industry official said.

Only this year, Turkey hosted about a dozen conferences on cyber security and new technologies. The most recent one was on Nov. 19-20, bringing together 450 military officers, cyber experts, cyber defense officials and industry representatives from Turkey, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Albania and South Korea.

"Cyber defense has become an indispensable part of our national defense," Murad Bayar, Turkey's chief procurement official told the conference. "This has become in line with [increased] government and private demand [for solutions] as technology constantly evolves."

Bayar said that cyber warfare in Turkey was increasingly becoming a "military issue." "Cyber threats are expanding asymmetrically. Hence a need for network-centric strategy [to tackle these threats]," said Bayar, head of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM).

Speaking at the same conference, Colonel Cengiz Ozteke, commander of the military General Staff's division for electronic systems and cyber defense, said that the Turkish military now considered cyber security as the country's "fifth force" (after land and air forces, navy and space).

In June, the Turkish government launched the Center for Response to National Cyber Threats. Earlier, the Turkish military headquarters had formed a Cyber Warfare Command.

A U.S. company official said that threats meant a need to counter them with using new technologies. "And that's when markets shape up," he said.

Defense company executives estimate the size of the cyber-related market to be at "hundreds of millions of dollars" in the next five years.

Major Turkish players are the government watchdog Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA), the military General Staff, military electronics firm Aselsan, military software concern Havelsan and the state scientific research institution TÜBİTAK, all of which deal with cyber security solutions.

Most Turkish government agencies rely on foreign solutions but the military, the national intelligence agency use local cyber security solutions mostly developed by Havelsan and TÜBİTAK, with the latter representing about 70 percent of all national crypto solutions.

Anti-riot equipment market is another promising one for local dealers/manufacturers and foreign suppliers. After this summer's nationwide Gezi Park protests the market showed the first signs of a boom. With political observers expecting more turbulence in 2014 and 2015 when Turks will vote in local, presidential and parliamentary elections, local agents expect more protests and a bigger bill for anti-riot equipment including water cannons, armored vehicles, tear gas and gas canisters and various other gear.

According to the 2014 draft budget plan, the Turkish government will allocate a total of 20.1 billion Turkish Liras for the Interior Ministry and the police force, equivalent almost to 21.8 billion liras that will be appropriated to the Defense Ministry.

Meanwhile, regional geopolitical realities of its region and a multitude of asymmetrical threats and challenges are forcing Turkey to keep its special operations units in shape, well-equipped and ready to combat.

Although officials do not comment on the magnitude and type of equipment and gear acquired for special operations they "guess that there would be an immodest increase in spending at least in the next few years."

"Technology in this field is constantly advancing and armies like us often need to catch up with new standards," one military official said. "Sometimes we need to buy without prior planning and urgently."

A procurement official dealing with such purchases said that the orders to buy for special forces may come "any day, for any gear and with short-notice." He did not elaborate on the type of equipment being or to be acquired, but a defense analyst here said that drones would in the future be increasingly used for special operations.

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