Turkey is seeking to boost defense industry ties with Oman as part of efforts to increase cooperation in the defense industry. To this end, Turkish defense contractor HAVELSAN, owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF) and under the control of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has established a joint venture, HAVELSAN Technology Oman LLC, in Muscat.
In 2016 HAVELSAN sold a C4I system to the Omani defense ministry and provided courses and training to a significant number of personnel on the use and maintenance of the system. The company in July 2018 opened a permanent office in Muscat due to the growing business opportunities in Oman.
HAVELSAN Technology Oman LLC, in which HAVELSAN has a 70 percent stake and Omani Masirah International controls 30 percent, was officially inaugurated on March 3, 2020. The joint venture is expected to increase Turkey’s defense industry exports to Oman and other countries in Middle East.
The grand opening of the new company was attended by Turkish Ambassador to Oman Ayşe Sözen Usluer, a non-career diplomatic envoy who previously served President Erdoğan as head of international relations at the presidential palace; HAVELSAN board chairman Hacı Ali Mantar; and Masirah International board chairman Saad Al Jenaibi, along with Omani businessmen.
HAVELSAN, a software and systems conglomerate, designs and develops surveillance, reconnaissance and defense systems as well as simulation and training systems for military and commercial applications. In addition to Oman, it has permanent offices in Qatar and Kuwait.
In an interview with the MSI Turkish Defence Review, Ahmet Hamdi Atalay, CEO of HAVELSAN, explained their business model in the Middle East, saying: “The regions and countries in which we priority our business development efforts are selected according to the international collaborations and policies that impact the sector, as well as other criteria that affect trade. … We continue relentlessly in our efforts to reach decision-makers, the actors that influence them and the users to inform them of our products and solutions. … For example, our office in Muscat, Oman, opened for business on July 25, 2018. Following promotional activities, during which we came into contact with various customers, we have submitted offers with a total value of approximately $170 million in procurement tenders for defence, security, simulator and information systems.”
“We also signed cooperation agreements and memorandums of understanding with both Oman and UAE. This year , we want to show that our presence in Oman is long-lasting by establishing a company named “HAVELSAN Technology Oman” in Muscat. With this new move, we aim to follow a procurement approach that is based on technology transfer, and to thereby gain a competitive advantage,” he said.
Moreover, Atalay revealed joint projects conducted by HAVELSAN and other Turkish defense industry conglomerates in Oman and the Middle East. “I always view our joint activities with platform manufacturers as being important. We have many years of experience as well as strong collaborations in this area, and have taken part in many successful projects to date. One example I can give in this regard is the joint work we carry out with FNSS, and our works concerning the use of the DOOB C4I System on tactical armored vehicles. We are also closely cooperating with Yonca-Onuk Shipyard in both Qatar and Oman.”
TAFF, the owner of HAVELSAN, was founded in 1987 to “enhance the combat strength of the Turkish Armed Forces” and has played a leading role in the establishment and development of the defense industry. In addition to HAVELSAN, TAFF directly or indirectly controls major companies such as ASELSAN (electronics), ISBIR (generators and alternators), ASPILSAN (battery pack products), ROKETSAN (rockets and missiles) and TAI (aerospace and satellites). In 2018 it earned 43 percent of the Turkish defense industry’s total revenue, while it was responsible for 41 percent of defense exports.
On December 24, 2017 President Erdoğan issued a decree placing the military managed “foundation” under his control. Today, the TAFF board of trustees, the main decision-making organ of the organization, is chaired by Erdoğan.
Erdoğan has consolidated arms manufacturers and government procurement agencies under his direct or indirect control and has used the military industrial complex to sustain and finance his regime.
While Erdoğan took over control of all government agencies involved in the production, development and procurement of arms and defense materiel, he redistributed the assets of private arms manufacturers to a few companies that are close to him. His son-in-law, Selçuk Bayraktar, emerged as the chief of the Turkish defense industry. Erdoğan incorporated a firm into his family when his daughter Sümeyye married Bayraktar, the technology officer of Baykar Makina, which manufactures armed and unarmed drones for the Turkish military and law enforcement agencies. In many speeches Erdoğan has often boasted about Bayraktar-manufactured armed drones, saying they have enhanced Turkey’s defense capabilities.