Pakistan & Turkiye’s Aviation Pakistan & Turkiye’s Aviation IndustryIndustry

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Azhar Zeeshan

To gain an insight into the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and Turkey, there is perhaps no other thing as illus­trative as the words of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which he uttered at the time of the appointment of the first Turkish ambassador to Pakistan in March 1948. To put it in his words: “Turkey has drawn our admiration for the valour of Turkish people and how your leaders have fought almost single-handed amid in Europe for your freedom. I really can as­sure your excellence that the Muslims of Pakistan will en­tertain sentiments of affection for your country and now Turkey and Pakistan both as independent countries can strengthen their ties more and more for the good of both.”
Since the 1950s, the relationship between Turkey and Paki­stan has prospered, rooted in a shared sense of brotherhood forged by a common religion, Islam. Both nations have a rich history of supporting each other on critical issues within international bodies such as the OIC and the UN. Notably, Turkey has consistently sup­ported Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue, while Pakistan has reciprocated by expressing solidarity with Turkey’s policies regard­ing Northern Cyprus. However, apart from these important areas of convergence, there has arisen, in recent years, another important area that is playing a crucial in bringing the two countries further closer to one another: the aviation industry.
In the last couple of years, both countries have increased collabo­ration in the aviation sector with Turkiye making significant inroads in Pakistan’s aviation industry, especially in the defence sector, with multiple MoUs, and agreements signed with Pakistani organiza­tions. For instance, in February 2020, the renowned Turkish Aero­space Industries (TAI) created a research and development section at Pakistan’s National University of Science and Technology focused on joint research, and training leading to technology transfer in the fields of cybersecurity, drone surveillance, and radar technology.
Similarly in August 2023, when Pakistan Air Force (PAF) inaugu­rated its flagship project, the National Aerospace Science & Technol­ogy Park (NASTP), located at PAF Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpin­di, two prominent Turkish companies in defence aviation, Turkish Aerospace Industries and Baykar Technologies, established their offices within the park. Notably, Baykar Technologies, renowned for manufacturing the Bayraktar TB2 and Akinci Unmanned Com­bat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) now integrated into PAF’s arsenal, also set up a Joint Loitering Munition Design and Development Centre at NASTP in collaboration with PAF’s Aviation Research, Indigeniza­tion & Development (AvRID) Division.
In collaboration with Pakistani firms, these companies are active­ly involved in Research and Development activities, thereby contrib­uting to the advancement of Pakistan’s aviation ecosystem through mutual innovation and the cultivation of high-end technology capa­bilities. One notable outcome of this collaboration is the develop­ment of KaGem V3, an air-launched missile reportedly jointly engi­neered by NASTP and Baykar.
Besides carrying out research and development activities, these companies are also engaged with Pakistan for the co-production of aircraft components, and combat jets. For instance, at the 2023 In­ternational Defence Industry Fair, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra signed an agreement with TAI for the joint develop­ment of various cutting-edge aircraft components. An agreement of a similar nature was also signed between TAI and the National En­gineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) in 2021 for the pro­duction of ANKA UAV parts. Furthermore, there are also reports of collaboration between Pakistan and Turkey, focusing on the train­ing of human resources, on the development of fighter aircraft.
Moreover, there is also potential for joint investment in infrastructure development, such as airport modernization projects especially when the government of Pakistan is exploring options for outsourcing the management of the country’s major airports. Such investments hold mutual benefits for both nations. For example, Pakistan’s air transport sector, currently contributing $3.3 billion to the country’s GDP, is pro­jected to grow by 184 percent growth over the next twenty years. This expansion is expected to add $9.3 billion to Pakistan’s GDP and could potentially generate 786,300 jobs. Pakistan can fully capitalize on this burgeoning air transport market by leveraging Turkish expertise in air­port management. Conversely, by providing expertise in airport man­agement and collaborating with Pakistani partners, Turkey can estab­lish a foothold in this growing market, potentially leading to increased trade and investment opportunities between the two nations.
The writer is a researcher at the Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), Lahore. He can be reached at info@casslhr.com