French giant Thales is one of the world’s top twenty arms companies. It has offices and factories all over the world, including in the UK, and employs 80,000 people internationally.

It is one of Europe’s companies that is most complicit in arming Turkey.

Thales has been present in Turkey for more than 25 years, and works closely with a number of Turkish weapons companies to arm the country.

It is a main supplier to the Turkish navy.

Partnering with Turkish arms company Aselsan to make missile systems

Thales’ lightweight multi-role missile is a “precision strike missile,” providing “rapid reaction to a wide range of the surface threats.” It is designed to be fired from helicopters, drones, armoured vehicles and naval platforms.

Thales and Aselsan have paired up to develop launchers to integrate the Thales missile onto an Aselsan turret. This missile system also includes Aselsan’s Fire Control System, STAMP. The companies have designed the missile system to weaponise fast patrol boats.

On top of this, Thales states on its website that “Thales and the Turkish industry have been working closely together on several programs including 3D Radar Modernization, Helmet Mounted Sight Display with Aselsan.”

And in 2010, Thales and Aselsan were selected by Turkey to provide the Helmet Integrated Cueing System (HICS) for the Turkish T129 ATAK helicopter. The ATAK helicopter was used in Turkey’s assault on Afrin.

But is a Turkey-Europe missile system program falling through?

In 2018, Turkey signed an 18-month contract with Aselsan, Roketsan and Eurosam (a joint venture between MBDA and Thales). The companies agreed to prepare the development and production contract for a long-range missile system for the Turkish Air Force. The system would be developed from Eurosam’s current SAMP-T air ‘defence’ systems.

However, in early 2020, İsmail Demir, head of the Turkish Defence Industry Directorate, stated that France was obstructing progress. According to Defense News, Demir argued that France has impeded progress on a potential deal ever since Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria in October.

“France has a negative attitude for the next phase. It creates troubles to go one step further,” Demir said. “If this attitude continues, we will proceed with the other partner [Italy].”

Partnering with Turkish state-owned company Havelsan

In 2002, Thales and Turkish Yalcin Group formed a joint venture called YALTES. In 2011, Thales took over Yalcin’s shares, becoming the sole owner of the company.

YALTES has partnered with Turkish state-owned arms company Havelsan to modernise eight of Turkey’s naval ships. It has provided Turkey with combat management systems which “enhance warfare capabilities of Turkish Navy’s G Class Frigates.”

Thales-owned YALTES also signed a deal with Havelsan to provide Turkish patrol boats with platform management systems.

Bayraktar tank landing ships

Turkey has two new naval Bayraktar-series ships, which came into service in 2018. The ships feature the Thales Smart-S Mk2 air and surface surveillance radar.

Protesters outside Thales in Crawley

Providing Turkey with maritime patrol aircraft

Thales was the prime contractor of Turkey’s MELTEM II program, and in 2014 it delivered maritime patrol aircraft to the country. It also provided Turkish coastguards with systems to monitor territorial waters.

Thales has also provided the MELTEM III aircraft’s mission system, which includes electro-optical sensors, radars, and anti-submarine warfare. The MELTEM III planes are made by ATR, a joint venture company between Airbus and Leonardo. TAI has made the final modifications.

Turkish reconnaissance satellite

In 2016, Turkey’s Earth observation satellite, GÖKTÜRK-1, was launched. The satellite program was built by Telespazio (a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo), and Thales Alenia Space (another joint venture between Thales and Leonardo), together with TAI, Aselsan, Tubitak Bilgem, Roketsan and TR Tecnoloji.

The system was designed for the Turkish Ministry of Defence, and is operated by the Turkish Air Force. The satellite is used for reconnaissance over any location on Earth.

Defense News reported that Security officials said that the “GÖKTÜRK-1 would be widely used in Turkey’s fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).”

Supplying equipment to Turkish Airlines

Thales provides Turkish Airlines with its inflight entertainment systems, and signed a ten year agreement to provide passenger media content. Turkish Airlines is the flag carrier airline of the republic of Turkey. Half of the company is owned by the state, and its key people have close ties to the AKP government.

Take action

  • Campaigners can push for UK universities to end their partnerships and investments with Thales.
  • Protest Thales’ participation in the biannual DSEI arms fair, held in London.
  • Demand that Thales ends all business relationships with Aselsan and Havelsan, and that it stops arming Turkey.
  • Demand that investors divest from Thales.
  • Pressure the British government to stop licensing the export of weapons to Turkey.
  • Thales often wins key transport infrastructure contracts around the world. Demand that your local authorities no longer award contracts to this arms company.

Company overview

Headquarters: France

Number of employees: Over 80,000 around the world

Revenue from arms: $9.57 billion

Ownership: 25.68% by the Government of France, 24.63% by Dassault Aviation, 2.9% by employees, and 46.53% float

Traded on: Euronext Paris stock exchange

UK locations: Offices and factories in 10 UK locations, including London, Glasgow, Reading, Crawley and Stockport. For a full list of locations, go to CAAT’s Thales profile.