Kazakhstan is eyeing cooperation with Türkiye in the military sector, according to the head of Kazakhstan's Association of Defense Industry Enterprises.
Speaking in an interview with Anadolu, Aibek Baryssov took the opportunity to first offer his condolences over the devastating earthquakes that hit Türkiye in early February.
"We are with you. Our hearts are with you. We pray every day for the people affected by the earthquakes,” he said.
“In 1991, we had an earthquake in Kazakhstan. I'm from the territory where it happened. I experienced it myself, so I perfectly understand the current difficulties," he added, likely referring to the Suusamyr earthquake.
Baryssov said the Central Asian nation's defense industry started on a foundation of former Soviet enterprises, and in recent years, several new modern plants were built.
"We produce combat wheeled vehicles and fire-control systems designed to assist a ranged weapon system to target, track, and hit a target. Our plants produce military vessels, machine guns, cannons. Recently we launched a cartridge factory. It’s still getting up to speed and doesn’t yet work at 100%," he said.
The association also includes enterprises that produce air defense systems and radio stations and provide maintenance for Soviet-era tanks.
There are also IT companies developing software, including for fire-control systems, which is "a noticeable achievement," Baryssov noted.
Several enterprises are joint ventures with the Turkish defense corporation Aselsan and work "in a wide range of arms production," he said.
Cooperation with Türkiye
Baryssov said the association would like to step up cooperation with Türkiye.
"There are reasons why we want to cooperate with Türkiye. We are brotherly nations. We are all Turkic people. Also, Türkiye is an example for us of love and respect for its own products.
"Türkiye is an example of how the consciousness of Kazakhstanis should grow towards their Kazakhstani products. My opinion is that the Turkish army has become the second-strongest in NATO and has gone far ahead in the production of the defense complex largely thanks to this feeling of love for everything domestic, Turkish," he said.
Baryssov added that in general, Turkish people’s love for their culture, goods, and work and their attitude towards Turkish producers are the primary reasons for Türkiye's success in many areas.
"This is the spirit! I think 85% of the success of the Turkish industry is based on the support of its manufacturers," he said.
Baryssov, who also chairs the Made in Kazakhstan Movement, called Türkiye "an example of patriotism and correct economic nationalism" in all aspects related to domestic products.
"We would like to develop close ties with Türkiye, taking into account our successful cooperation in the defense industry. We would like to develop it in many directions.
"For example, production, or at the initial stage, we could start from assembling knock-down kits of drones. We’re also interested in the production of ammunition of all NATO standards. We’re particularly interested in the production of 155-caliber shells for howitzers," he said.
If Türkiye is not ready to launch full joint production of drones, then perhaps cooperation can start by organizing facilities for drone maintenance, he said.
At the same time, for artillery, shells, and missiles, Kazakhstan may offer "comprehensive options" for cooperation, he said.
Shift to NATO standards
Baryssov said the shift to NATO standards is an important issue on the agenda of Kazakhstan's military producers, as at the moment, the bloc has the highest defense industry standards.
"NATO standards are more modern. One of our factories, Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering, produces wheeled vehicles. Their Barys 8x8 vehicle can withstand a 10 kg trotyl (TNT) explosion. This is more than an anti-tank mine.
"We’re talking about the life and health of people here – either they live and remain in good health after an explosion or not. That's why we need to move to NATO standards," he said.
Baryssov also pointed to Kazakhstan's advantages: cheaper resources and means of production, which affect the final cost of products, and also a good reputation and strategic logistical position.
According to him, defense industry representatives are mulling a visit to Türkiye to present opportunities when "the time is right."
"We have great potential, strong competence. We have shown this at several enterprises where we have made a complete technology transfer and then produced upgraded models, better than prototypes. It’s a difficult task to fully carry out such a transfer, but we have done it, and we’re ready to do the same for any military goods," he said.