Turkey has created its first prototype of the High Powered Laser Weapons System. The system, built by engineers, was tested, and the results were an absolute success. However, while Turkey is celebrating this victory in its military sector, neighboring countries are looking with a suspicious eye. Over the past couple of years, Turkey has been beefing up its military’s muscle to be strong and resilient.

Building, buying, and planning to purchase military equipment from its High Powered Laser Weapons System, to its drones, frigates, corvettes, air-to-air missiles, submarines, and much more, all these advancements in the Turkish defense sector are causing uneasiness in the geopolitical sphere. To know just how serious Turkey is, just take a look at some of its built and bought military supplies:

High Powered Laser Weapons System:

In January 2015, it was announced that Turkey had successfully tested its first prototype of its High Powered Laser Weapons System. The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, TÜBİTAK, carried out the tests in December 2014. Just a year ago, research and development started on the project, with a budget of $120 million.

Military Drones

More advanced unmanned aerial vehicles, being named the Anka, have been promised in the coming years by the Turkish government however, majors delays have been seen along the way. Since the early 2000s, Turkish engineers have been hard at work on the Anka but no solid release date has been mentioned, according to media source Hurriyet Daily. Officials of Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries have announced that the organization is trying its best to achieve a release date between 2016-2018. If successful, this could mean not only a stronger defense for Turkey, but prospective buyers from other countries could wish to get their hands on the top technology Turkey has to offer.

Air-to-Air Missiles

It was reported on in February of this year that Turkey’s military will go ahead with the purchasing of a $3.5 billion air defense system from China. Even though this system is not compatible with the NATO air defense network, the defense minister of Turkey has announced that the deal will still go through as panned. Turkey’s Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said that the system, which will be bought by using “foreign financing,” will be “integrated with the national system for Turkey’s defense and will be used without integrating with NATO,” according to online media sources.

Billions of dollars are being pumped into Turkey’s defense sector and all for legitimate reasons. One expert in Turkish affairs sees that Turkey is aiming high in its defense goals. “From what we know, the laser will be mainly used for defensive purposes. On another note, Turkey’s military strategy is at this point, very much intertwined with the ambitious goals of the AKP government which entail a greater regional and even international role,” Dr. Zenonas Tziarras, Non-resident Foreign Policy & Middle East Expert for Institute Strategy International said to Mediterranean Affairs, then added, “More often than not, such aspirations are underpinned by a strong military.”

Expansion of military equipment and strategic tools is a sign that Turkey is actively strengthening it’s military arm and wants it’s neighboring countries, as well as potential buyers, to pick up on such developments. One motivator for Turkey to up its defense unit was the Syrian conflict. Since Syria’s crisis began in 2011 and expanded to a full-fledged civil war by 2012, the neighboring country to Turkey has become an unstable territory—with daily reports of shellings, bombs, and brutality. Turkey has been keeping it’s borders with Syria protected, especially since violence has broken out in Syria’sborder town, Kobani, in 2014. It is only natural for Turkey to create a military plan to defend it’s borders should terrorists try to invade Turkey’s own border territory. The Syrian unrest has everything to do with the past and recent developments in Turkey’s military.”Given that the High Power Laser Weapons System kicked off in 2013, it would be reasonable to assume that the instability in Syria had something to do with it,” Dr. Tziarras said, adding that the Arab uprisings may have had an impact on Turkey’s desire to increase it’s military inventory and development.

There is no sign of Turkey slowing down its efforts of keeping its military sector strong and uniform, the country that bridges the east and west, is exploring options of obtaining more than just laser technology. Such technology only marks the start of what Turkey has in store for the future. Turkey’s elite politicians have a much bigger plan intended for the coming years, one that is making a handful of countries nervous, to say the least. As early as last year, Turkey and Japan signed a $22 billion nuclear deal that would allow for four nuclear power plants to be build on Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Such a deal was just what Japan needed, a stepping stone to recovering from its 2011 Fukushima catastrophe.

However, the deal did not leave everyone feeling satisfied. Critics showed their disapproval of the move for Turkey partnering up with Japan so early on after the catastrophe. Others have stayed skeptical over the billion dollar contract, as having nuclear power plants would allow for Turkey to be capable of enriching uranium and extracting plutonium—all standard for the creation of nuclear arms. This very aspect is making many Mediterranean and border nations with Turkey uneasy about Turkey’s armed military plans for the future. The expert on Turkey, Dr. Tziarras, mentions that “after all, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has long supported the right of every state to have nuclear technology and pointed out the West’s hypocrisy over Iran’s nuclear program.”

While Turkey continues gaining speed in it’s military sector, with new weapons and equipment, as well as it’s future nuclear power plants being part of its development plans—Turkey is well on its way to becoming globally known for its strong military and ever-growing rate of development . As other countries, both in the Mediterranean and Turkey’s close by neighbors, look on at what sectors Turkey is progressing in, it is only natural that outsiders will continue to view Turkey’s actions as suspicious. However, to be fair, Turkey has its borders to defend, its people to protect, and most importantly its reputation that it must upkeep. Safe borders will more than likely make the Turkish people feel protected, and especially in the game of politics, will work to the advantage of those holding power.

SARAH NEARY

Freelance Journalist