The Director of the Department for Business and Trade, UK Defence and Security Exports (UKDSE), Mark Goldsack, visited IDEF a second time and met Senior Turkish officials. In his own words, he was impressed with what was on show. TurDef had the opportunity to interview Mr. Goldsack and learn about the current Turkish-United Kingdom defence industry cooperation, and its future, and opportunities for growth. With speculation surrounding key programmes and Turkiye’s interest in Eurofighter Typhoon, Director Goldsack set the record straight, reiterating the importance of Turkiye as a partner underpinned by a strong trade relationship.
TurDef: How do you assess the state of the UK-Türkiye defence industrial relationship, and what opportunities do you see in the near future, especially after your meetings at IDEF?
Mark Goldsack: Strong and growing, with much potential. The defence industrial relationship between the UK and Türkiye is important to both our countries and often discussed by our political leaders.
We had a great visit to IDEF – with two UK Ministers visiting and a range of UK companies exhibiting. Both Ministers were impressed with what they saw on display at IDEF. IDEF really sums up the growth and strength of the Turkish Defence Industry. We follow closely the development of Türkiye’s major programmes; from KAAN to ALTAY to TCG ANADOLU, Türkiye’s defence sector is really on the move.
During IDEF, we were honoured to meet government counterparts in SSB and the Ministry of National Defence and are grateful to Deputy Defence Minister Celal Sami Tüfekçi and SSB President Haluk Görgün for their time. UK Ministers visited major Turkish companies, including Turkish Aerospace Industries, STM, FNSS, BMC, Canik and Nurol Makina. They also spent time with the major UK companies and smaller specialist firms that exhibited at the exhibition, including Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Leonardo, CPI TMD, and David Brown Santasalo, to name a few.
I see many opportunities going forward across many platform areas: land, air, unmanned, and naval. I’m also particularly interested in combining Türkiye and the UK’s complementary strengths in addressing third-market export opportunities.
TurDef: Türkiye is making progress on KAAN, the Turkish Fighter Project. BAE Systems contributed to Stage One with the TUSAŞ’s project progressing. What are the UK’s expectations looking forward? What is the UK’s offer?
Goldsack: KAAN is an excellent example of UK and Türkiye cooperation, and I’m delighted the UK is supporting Türkiye’s most important national projects.
I know BAE Systems is proud to be partnering with Turkish Aerospace Industries, supporting their leadership of this fundamental programme. I see that partnership growing further into the future. At present, BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace are considering future areas of potential collaboration and joint activities between the UK and Türkiye. These are clear indications of their commitment to the programme, and I’m keen to support them however I can in developing that partnership.
TurDef: Rolls-Royce has been in discussions for a number of years now on the KAAN engine development programme, but no agreement has been reached yet. How do you assess Turkish expectations, and do you have a formula to reach an agreement and start working on the project?
Goldsack: The progress made by Türkiye on KAAN is impressive, and the UK stands ready to continue to support the success of the programme. We remain in discussions with Türkiye on KAAN and other key defence programmes to understand how the UK Government and industry, including Rolls-Royce, can best support. Türkiye is an important partner for the UK, and Rolls-Royce is already doing significant work with the Turkish Armed Forces.
TurDef: Does the UK Government support Rolls Royce? If yes, at what level? Has the Turkish President and British Prime Minister discussed the matter, or will they discuss it in future?
Goldsack: Yes. The UK Government is supporting many UK defence companies who either already work with Turkish partners, or want to – including Rolls-Royce. UK Government has been involved in many conversations on support for KAAN and will continue to be.
Defence industrial cooperation is an important topic for both our Prime Minister and President Erdoğan – in fact, as recently as during the NATO Vilnius Summit in July, our leaders discussed bolstering our bilateral cooperation, including in cutting-edge defence technology.
TurDef: Türkiye is interested in Typhoon fighter jets. As far as we know, former Defence Minister Hulusi Akar stated that the Turkish Air Force should get Typhoons with or without F-16 acquisition. The F-16 modernisation deal with the US is a separate issue because these fighters can better fight with Rafales. We hear enormous amounts of backstage gossip. They include the delivery of second-hand Tranche 1 fighters and modernising them in UK or TUSAS facilities. We hear about acquiring second-hand Tranche 3 fighters, which will be sent from the Royal Air Force. We heard about receiving brand-new jets currently produced for other customer countries under the condition of negotiating with customer countries. There is much speculation. How does the UK see the project progressing?
Goldsack: I wouldn’t agree with your suggestion about F-16s and Rafale. Typhoon is a highly capable aircraft that is operating extremely well around the world with the UK Royal Air Force, partner nations, and export customers. It is combat-proven with an excellent track record of capability, sustainability, and integration with other aircraft types.
To your point around receiving brand-new jets produced for other customers, there are no plans to divert RAF jets. If Türkiye choose Eurofighter Typhoon, we will work with the Turkish Air Force and other partner nations to deliver a full operational capability to Türkiye.
I should add, it’s well known the Eurofighter consortium of countries must all agree the export of the aircraft. With that in mind, the UK is working with those partner nations to ensure Türkiye, as a key NATO ally, is able to defend Türkiye’s interests and NATO’s south-eastern flank.
TurDef: Both countries have the potential to reach new markets and expand operations into new territories. Are there any opportunities for Türkiye and the UK to work together and leverage capability in reaching new markets?
Goldsack: There is real interest in the UK and Türkiye to work together on export opportunities in third markets. Our countries have complementary industrial, diplomatic and government offers and our businesses are willing to work together to see success in new markets. I know where UK companies are involved in projects, UK Export Finance, the UK’s export credit agency, can provide the financial underpinning to get these projects off the ground. No doubt joint work in third countries will be an area that grows, cementing our bilateral partnership. I’m excited to see how projects develop over the coming years.
TurDef: When Türkiye and the UK were developing relations, the Turkish-American, Turkish-Canadian, and Turkish-NATO ties were at a drawback. Following the Turkish policy shift concerning Sweden’s NATO membership, the relations will soon be at their previous level. How do you see this impacting the Turkish-British defence industry relations? What opportunities might this present?
Goldsack: The UK warmly welcomes the steps Türkiye has taken to bring Sweden’s NATO accession closer. Sweden’s membership will make all Allies safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic more secure. We continue to encourage Türkiye and Hungary to ratify and the UK will continue to support both Finland and Sweden as they integrate into NATO’s structures.
TurDef: Türkiye is among the 13 countries the UK declared “Ready to Trade.” How do we see that benefiting the UK- Türkiye’s defence relationship?
Goldsack: For me, Türkiye is an indispensable partner and sits on the front line of some of the most difficult and serious challenges we face. It’s within this context the UK is working to strengthen our trade partnership with Türkiye and make both countries safer and more prosperous.
The UK and Türkiye are important trade partners. Türkiye is a top 20 world economy and shares a trading relationship with the UK worth £23.8 billion. In July, our governments announced their intention to begin talks towards an enhanced Free Trade Agreement to strengthen our existing relationship and create new opportunities.
We thank Mr Goldsack for his time and answers.
For more information about BAE Systems’ approach to KAAN Programme:
For more information Rafale / Eurofighter comparison:
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