Italy: The shady business of weapon sales to Turkey

Last year, Turkey was the third best customer for the Italian military industry, accounting for 7.5% of total Italian arms exports alone. In front of it was Qatar, which was the largest importer for a total of 1.9 billion euros, and Pakistan. In 2018, Turkey purchased Italian arms for a total of 632.3m euros, up significantly from 2017, when Ankara bought Italian weapons for 266.1m euros, and compared to 2016 when the total amount was nonexistent. to EUR 133.4 million. In other words, Turkey is emerging as an increasingly important customer of the Italian military industry.


We should also add to the tens of millions that Turkey spends on these funds, participating in pan-European and NATO plans to develop new weapons systems. In particular, Ankara is participating in the international team (consisting of dozens of US and European companies) in the design of a new multirole airplane. He is also in the team (including Greece) of designing a new radar network led by the Italian state-owned group Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica. Finally, in the team (and also with Greek participation) in designing a new electronic control system.

All four export licenses issued last year (EUR 1,055,000) for weapons sold through Turkey’s mediation to unnamed third countries should be mentioned. As well as the roughly $ 30 million that Turkey has paid in addition to repairing and deploying its military on new Italian weapons.

The figures come from this year’s report submitted by the Italian Ministry of Defense to Parliament on arms exports last year. Submitting an annual report is mandatory, although over time, pressure from both the Italian industry and foreign buyers is reducing transparency. For example, in recent years the total amount of export licenses in each country is indicated, but what exactly was sold is no longer stated.

Turkey loves Italian weapons

The report states that export licenses to Ankara were 70 in total and they include essentially everything from weapons with a diameter of more than 12.7 mm to airplanes, rockets, rockets and technology for their production and use.

But more details on Italian arms exports were provided by Giorgio Beretta, a researcher at the Brescia Continental Light Weapons Observatory (OPAL), where the Italian war industry was born centuries ago.

According to Italian analysts, the most significant sale of Italian weapons to Turkey concerns Mangusta helicopters. As early as 2010, the Italian industry Agusta Westland had closed an agreement with the Turkish state-owned TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) for the production in Turkey of this helicopter, which in its Turkish version was renamed T129 ATAK and was seen invading Syria .

Initially, the deal provided for the production of 51 helicopters, which had become 60 since 2011 and since then the assembly line has never stopped. More recently, production of the helicopter has also begun tailored to the needs of the Turkish Navy.

The Italian group Leonardo is working with the Turkish Ministry of Defense to develop spy satellites, the creation and installation of a VTMS (Vessel Traffic Management System) electronic maritime control system, the modernization of air control, radars, and firing in Izmir. for the Turkish coastguard.

And the well-known firm Beretta of Brescia has opened its own factory in Turkey through its Stoeger subsidiary. Beretta’s Turkish-made pistols are systematically involved in all competitions for the equipment of security forces and the armed forces, in which they have occasionally sold certain quantities.