Welcome to IDEF 2015 in Istanbul
…or Constantinople, as I keep wanting to call it. I’ve learned so much and read so much about this place, but never visited. Istanbul, as many know, is a unique city as it straddles two continents—both Asia and Europe—and that’s what’s made it such a hot spot for trade. And, since the city for many years represented the gateway for people of two major religions—Christianity and Islam—it has a storied military past.
It’s perhaps fitting, then, that I’m here to attend a trade show for vendors to demonstrate the latest in military technology: IDEF 2015.
Now here’s something I didn’t know until recently: Turkey represents one of the fastest-growing military markets in the world. While other nations around the world have cut military spending, and have therefore seen a decline in military technology and innovation, Turkey has set itself on a course to rapidly grow its capabilities over the next five to 10 years.
Take, for example, medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles. Europe started to build one, but the co-development between Germany and France seems to have stalled or died or gone back to the drawing board. Turkey has gone ahead and built one, and it uses GE Rugged electronics.
ANKA MALE UAV on display at IDEF 15
Turkey has also launched a program to address its goal to build a fighter jet by 2020. As one visitor to our booth commented, this is a “bright shining star” of development in the region, and the west needs to recognize it not just as a market for military technology but more importantly as a thriving center of innovation for technology.
Another example of Turkish innovation – the homegrown ATAK helicopter.
Many outside of Turkey may not be aware of all this development and activity. When you look at the charts showing how the U.S. defense budget dwarfs the budgets of all other nations combined, some might overlook this burgeoning opportunity. But it really should be no surprise, given its location as the gateway between the west and east and its special relationship with the regional powers, combined with a strong, well-educated engineering population.
GE has a fairly large presence at this show. GE Marine is here showing off some of their engines for naval craft. I was very pleased with the way our booth came together, thanks to the very hard work by our good friends and local partner EMFES. The GE Rugged brand is prominently on display and our message seems to resonate with customers. We have a range of board level and subsystem products on display and, based on the conversations I’ve had with customers so far, I’ve discovered that organizations in this region are no different to others in that they are increasingly interested in more solution-level platforms than piece-parts.
Needless to say, I’m learning quite a bit here this week. I did get to spend a little time wandering Istanbul’s old city, checking out the main attractions such as the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and some of the local neighborhoods. Google Translate successfully translated “NO, I do not want to buy a carpet” over and over again in the aptly named Grand Bazaar. The food here is incredible—very tasty and mostly healthy, with an emphasis on fresh vegetables (except at the trade show itself, which goes to show that all trade shows are the same). I also learned that Istanbul can put almost any U.S. city to shame when it comes to rush-hour traffic. Most of all, I learned that the Turkish people are very hospitable; appreciate a direct, honest, no-B.S. approach to business; and are eager to show the world how capable they are—which, I guess, sums up IDEF very well.