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The Biggest Arms Show In Turkey Starts This Week

May 9, 2017

Every two years the cream of Turkey’s military-industrial complex, along with multitudinous foreign companies, congregate in Tüyap Fair Convention and Congress Center for IDEF. It’s the largest multi-service (land, air, sea, and space) arms show of its kind in the region and a showcase for a country’s rising manufacturing sector.

IDEF’s origins date to 1993 as a project of the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF) and the Ministry of National Defense for attracting suppliers and joint ventures. Almost 25 years later Turkey is a bright light in the global defense industry and its homegrown champions are poised for high profile exports to new markets.

21st Century Asian Arms Race (21AAR) is a media partner for IDEF 2017, which runs from May 9 until 12.

Unlike arms show on the European mainland, IDEF in its current form brings together NATO’s technological edge and Eurasia’s impressive firepower. Since it’s sponsored by the Turkish government, IDEF is a convenient measure of the host country’s ambitions.

Now more than ever Turkey is developing fourth-generation systems–if such a term could be applied–that’s a cut above the staid NATO platforms its armed forces have relied on for decades. Highlights of the latest IDEF are a bewildering array of locally made products, from small arms to optics, armored vehicles to drones.

IDEF 2017 is from May 9 until 12 and is expected to attract upwards of 50,000 visitors from several dozen countries, half of whom are visiting delegates looking for their next procurement options. At least several hundred firms are participating on the show floor, with a strong emphasis on local brands.

The stats on the previous IDEF in 2015 reflect its growing esteem in the arms industry. A total of 781 companies from 53 countries participated as exhibitors, these included pavilions for Azerbaijan, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Korea, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the US. A total of 124 delegations visited and 2,230 scheduled meetings took place.

IDEF 2015 saw an uptick in visits from East and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the MENA region, and Latin America, many of whom are looking to either acquire or co-develop Turkish military products. Recent proof of this trend is the UAE’s selection of a Turkish-made wheeled APC combined with a Russian BMP-3 turret to bolster its mechanized units.

As a country intersecting the Levant, the Middle East, and Europe, Turkey’s profile in its part of the world can’t be ignored. It maintains the largest armed forces among European NATO members, the second largest in the Middle East after Iran, and the most capable navy and air forces compared to its immediate neighbors.  This is made possible with a modest defense budget of $19.9 billion, a figure that’s just 2.8% of its GDP.

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