One recent example of this unethical behavior is the way the media covered the recent delivery of local, Aselsan-made pedestal-mounted Stinger missiles to the Turkish military. Turkish dailies and TV stations claimed that Pedestal-Mounted Stinger Systems (PMSS) will be an important system in deterring neighboring Syria from engaging in further aggression against Turkey similar to when Damascus downed a Turkish RF-4E fighter on June 22, which Turkey says took place over international airspace in the Mediterranean.
Exaggerated media reporting is problematic in many ways. To start, these missiles have a range of around five kilometers and can only hit a plane while it is on the ground. Whereas the media has claimed that PMSSs mounted on vehicles would be able to hit Syrian jets. These type of stories, smelling of propaganda, do not, of course, help the public be informed and are instead misleading as to the real strength of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), whose extra-budgetary resources earmarked for defense are not audited by the Court of Auditors.
This unethical behavior on the part of the media in running stories on the power of the locally developed arms does not, on the other hand, mean that the current Turkish government has not developed policies since 2004 to boost the long-neglected local defense industry sector, the function of which used to be limited to assembling part of, for example, US Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters at a military industrial complex rather than developing critical arms systems locally.
A policy was implemented in 2004 to encourage local companies to produce arms systems domestically and, when necessary, in cooperation with foreign partners, to strengthen the local defense industry base that was then almost 85 percent reliant on arms systems from abroad. The government decided to earmark financial resources for research and development (R&D) projects in defense systems to be produced domestically.
The majority of the arms systems imported, mainly from the US, are state-of-the-art systems, such as the advanced F-16s, that make the TSK powerful in terms of deterring what are mostly threats of conventional warfare. However, since one of the criteria in measuring a country’s degree of power is its capacity to locally manufacture its own systems and reduce a heavy reliance on critical systems from abroad, one can argue that the TSK is not that powerful.
There is an asymmetry between the high level of Turkish military expenditure and the still-poor level of arms manufactured locally. Turkey has one of the highest levels of military expenditure among countries within NATO, estimated to be slightly higher than 2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). Since extra-budgetary resources earmarked for defense are not available to Parliament or the public, this ratio does not reflect the true percentage.
Meanwhile, Turkish military procurement officials say the ratio of arms manufactured locally has reached 50 percent thanks to the 2004 policy and add that Turkey will begin the local production of critical arms technologies this year.
As a matter of fact, Turkey has begun to export some of its domestically developed arms, sometimes in cooperation with foreign partners. One example is the production of 18 PMSSs for the Royal Dutch Army.
Still, the media presentation of PMSSs as if they will play an important role in deterring Syria from engaging in further aggression against Turkey is an attempt to play with the public. Professor Ahmet Nuri Yüksel, an aircraft engineer, told the Taraf daily on June 30 that the media coverage of the strength of PMSSs as if they would enable Turkey to effectively hit Syrian systems is pure ignorance and far from being serious. Yakup Evirgen, a retired major, also spoke to Taraf and said the Stingers are the most-advanced low-altitude air defense systems and that Turkey developed PMSSs to install on vehicles.
“It is wrong to portray these systems as if they can destroy Syrian systems. Turkey still lacks military technology that can support its claim of being a regional power,” he said.
The Turkish media needs a serious overhaul so that it will be obliged to run accurate stories that will otherwise be punished through legal means.