Turkey continued to conduct several significant projects in technology, defense and aviation in 2021 from indigenous cars to new communication satellites and cutting-edge defense products.
After a tough year due to the coronavirus pandemic measures, such as lockdowns and travel bans in 2020, when events were postponed or organized virtually, 2021 saw important events with huge participation.
- Products, records
After successful operations where Turkish defense products proved their quality, such as in the Northern Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh (Upper Karabakh) region, Turkish products became more popular.
Turkey's first medium-range missile engine broke a world record in April by reaching 1,342 newtons of thrust power with its 240-millimeter (9.5-inch) diameter.
The TEI-TJ300’s engine, developed by TUSAS Engine Industries (TEI) with the support of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), will be able to be used in aerial, naval and land defense systems.
The country successfully tested in May its first 1,500-hp locally-made tank engine, Batu, developed by Turkish firm BMC Power for various tanks.
ASELSAN in May successfully tested a micro unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Saka, which has a 3-axis gimbal, developed for exploration and surveillance purposes and weighs around 600 grams (1.3 pounds).
Turkey's Bayraktar Akinci combat drone, developed by UAV maker Baykar, broke a record in the country in July by flying at an altitude of 38,039 feet and staying in the air for 25 hours and 46 minutes.
In July, Turkey’s HISAR A air defense missile system was delivered with all elements and the HISAR O system reached the stage of mass production.
As the first indigenous air defense system, HISAR missiles were developed to protect military bases, ports, facilities and troops against air-based threats.
The country's ongoing aviation projects also made progress in 2021.
The maiden flight of the Turkish Aerospace Inc's (TAI) Hurjet project, an advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft, was scheduled for the end of 2022.
In 2023, Hurjet and helicopter gunship Atak-2 are planned to fly and the warcraft TF-X will be rolled out.
The country also introduced its first indigenously produced microprocessor, Cakil, in August.
Baykar unveiled its newly designed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV in September. The new UAV does not need a landing track, it can take off from several different locations, including naval or mobile platforms.
Turkey successfully test-fired the long-range Siper indigenous air defense missile in November. The system is expected to rival S-400s.
- Space, technology studies
In February, Turkey unveiled its national space program, a roadmap based on realistic and competitive goals.
"The national space program will carry our country to an upper league in the global space race," said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As part of the program, Turkey aims to make its first contact with the moon in the republic's centennial year of 2023.
Turkey is planning to establish a spaceport while ensuring access to space.
It established a space agency, the Turkish Space Agency, in 2018. The agency was registered by the International Astronautical Federation in October.
Meanwhile, in August, Turkey prepared the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, defining priorities which it will be focused on during the period from 2021-2025.
The strategy includes targets to increase the share of artificial intelligence in GDP to 5%, as well as 50,000 jobs in the sector, according to the circular.
Turkey became one of a few countries, which can launch two satellites in one year.
It launched two communication satellites in 2021, Turksat 5A and Turksat 5B, using SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets that took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the US state of Florida, in January and December, respectively.
Turksat 5A and Turksat 5B, which were produced by Airbus, have a 30-year and 35-year lifespan, respectively, while the Turkish domestic industry contributed to the production process of the 5B.
Turksat 5B is the most powerful Turkish satellite and will increase the Ka-Band capacity by more than 15 times. It will be capable of transmitting data at more than 55 gigabits in total.
Besides Turkey, the entire Middle East, Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Mediterranean, North and East Africa, Nigeria, South Africa and neighboring countries will be covered by Turksat 5B.
With Turksat 5B, Turkey currently has eight active satellites.
The country also aims to complete a Turksat 6A project in 2022 indigenously, which will make Turkey one of 10 countries that can produce its own communications satellite.
The satellite is also expected to be launched by SpaceX in the first quarter of 2023.
The construction of Turkey's new high-resolution observation satellite, IMECE, is also expected to launch in 2022.
IMECE is a remote sensing satellite produced with local resources of up to 60%.
- Indigenous land vehicles
Turkey’s Automobile Joint Venture Group (TOGG) announced in July that it completed the initial body assembly of the country’s first indigenous car.
In November, a test drive was made in Istanbul. The car is expected to enter the mass production phase in 2022.
TOGG aims to establish the country's first car battery manufacturing plant, that will be able to manufacture 15 gigawatt hours of battery cell and module.
Major Turkish bus producer Karsan manufactured the first indigenous driverless electric bus in February.
The Atak Electric has a range of 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) without interruption thanks to BMW 220-kWh Li-Ion batteries.
The 8.3-meter (27.2-foot) bus has a capacity of more than 50 passengers.
Otokar, another Turkish bus producer, also successfully tested the nation’s first autonomous bus in January.
In the second phase of a four-phase development process, the company conducted software integration and autonomous verification tests.
- Data policy
Earlier this year, WhatsApp forced many users to agree to new privacy rules for sharing personal data with Facebook companies.
While users responded to the move, Turkey's Competition Authority opened an investigation into Facebook and WhatsApp and suspended new data sharing rules.
The most controversial issue in the update is that the rules will not be implemented for users in the EU.
Following the suspension, Facebook postponed the update then waived its implementation in Turkey.
In this process, users began to use other applications such as Telegram and Signal, especially domestic solutions Bip and Yaay.
On the other hand, as part of Turkey's social media law, which took effect in October 2020, social media platforms obeyed the rules and appointed local representatives.
According to the law, Turkey asked social media platforms that are accessed more than 1 million times daily in the country to appoint local representatives.
Social media firms must respond to requests by the government in the Turkish language and must answer requests concerning personal and privacy rights within 48 hours.
The platforms should publish semi-annual reports on their response rates to such requests.
Social networks that do not comply with court orders to remove illegal content are subject to penalties, according to the law.
The law also said social media companies must take measures to host Turkey-based users' data in the country.
While VKontakte (VK), YouTube, TikTok and Dailymotion accepted the requirements in 2020, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest accepted in 2021. Twitter and Pinterest have faced sanctions, such as advertisement bans and limiting bandwidth.
Turkey organized several major technology, defense and aviation events.
One of the largest global defense events, the International Defense Industry Fair, exhibited Turkey's and the world's latest military and technology products in Istanbul in August.
The four-day event hosted 1,200 firms from Turkey and foreign countries and showcased a wide range of defense products in various fields, including land vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, weapons, simulators, radars, sonars, naval platform solutions, aviation systems, missiles, logistic vehicles, supply equipment and security systems.
Turkey's biggest aerospace and technology festival, TEKNOFEST, kicked off in September at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, hosting activities, such as air shows with warplanes, unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters; seminars, summits, competitions and fairs.
The 2021 edition of the festival featured technology competitions in dozens of categories such as smart transportation, helicopter design, biotechnology, robotics, flying cars, rockets and unmanned underwater systems.
The second biannual SAHA Expo, a major Turkish defense industry event, opened its doors in November, gathering sector professionals, officials, defense companies and technology developers.
- Technology and defense investments
In 2021, Turkey attracted significant technology investments from the world, while local companies took new steps.
Chinese technology giant, Xiaomi, opened a production facility in Istanbul in March. Turkey is the fourth country where the brand has production plants.
OPPO, another Chinese mobile phone giant, opened a factory in Istanbul in March while Chinese company TECNO started manufacturing in Turkey with an investment of $35 million and generated 1,000 jobs.
China's TCL, by uniting forces with Turkish major appliances producer Arcelik, began manufacturing mobile phones in Turkey with an annual capacity of 450,000 units, which is projected to reach 1 million in 2022.
China's Vivo rented a facility in the industrial province of Kocaeli for manufacturing mobile phones.
Turkey's Mechanical and Chemical Industry Company (MKEK) opened Barutsan Rocket and Explosive Factory in the capital of Ankara to reduce the country's dependence on imported aerial bombs, ammunition, missiles or warheads.
- Defense sanctions
Some countries decided to implement sanctions for the Turkish defense industry, especially in aviation.
Canada canceled export permits to Turkey for arms sales on allegations that its technology was being used in Turkish support for Azerbaijan’s effort to liberate the Upper Karabakh region from Armenian occupation, which was liberated in November 2020.
In 2021, the US began to implement sanctions on the Turkish defense industry and officials related to the Russian S-400 air defense system taking effect.
US officials have claimed the S-400 would be incompatible with NATO systems and would expose next-generation F-35 fighter jets to possible Russian subterfuge.
As a NATO member, Turkey's move triggered discussions and the US decided to implement Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against the country.
According to CAATSA sanctions, which became took effect in April, Turkey's Defense Industries Presidency cannot obtain an export license from the US and benefit from credit packages from the US and related financial institutions.
During the first 11 months of the year, Turkey's defense exports increased nearly 40% to $2.9 billion, while the high technology and technology took around 35% share from Turkey's exports in the manufacturing sector.
The TAI has signed the country's first satellite export agreement with Argentina-based technology firm INVAP, and their joint company GSATC.
As part of the agreement, the ARSAT-SG1 satellite, will meet Argentina's state-owned GSM operator Arsat's requirements, and will be produced and is planned to be delivered in 2024.