Saudi Arabia buys Turkish drones in Ankara's biggest defense contract.

Saudi Arabia has signed a deal with Turkey to buy drones from Ankara in the “biggest” military contract in Turkish history. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struggles to absorb foreign investment to revive the country’s battered economy.

The deal was finalized in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on Tuesday, a day after Erdogan, accompanied by an entourage of some 200 businessmen, arrived in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his Persian Gulf tour.

Media reported that Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the signing ceremony of the drone deal between Turkish defense company Baykar and the Saudi Defense Ministry.

Saudi Arabia buys Turkish drones in Ankara's biggest defense contract.

Defense Minister Prince Khalid, bin Salman Al Saud, said in a tweet on Tuesday that Riyadh would acquire the drones “with the aim of improving the readiness of the kingdom’s armed forces and bolstering its defense and manufacturing capabilities.”

Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar described the drone deal as the “biggest” defense and aviation export contract in Turkey’s history.

“We signed a contract with the Saudi Ministry of Defense for the export and cooperation of the Bayraktar Akinci (unmanned combat aerial vehicle),” he said in a Twitter post.

The Akinci is more advanced than Baykar’s Bayraktar TB2 UCAV, which has been sold to countries including Ukraine, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Poland.

Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs were used in Ankara’s long-running conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group in the southeast of the country, as well as in conflicts in Libya and Azerbaijan.

“Many more countries are waiting for our national UCAVs,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan stated that the defense industry would be the locomotive of any other success Turkey achieves in the future.

“Reducing the foreign dependence of the defense industry to 20% from 80% in such a short time is one of the greatest achievements in the history of the Republic.”

Erdogan is touring the Persian Gulf region, and his next stops include Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Erdogan’s visit comes as Turkey is grappling with sales and fuel tax increases, which have been seen as necessary to restore the country’s fiscal discipline and reduce inflation to 38 percent.

Turkey’s current account deficit reached record levels this year ($37.7 billion in the first five months) and Erdogan has expressed hope that oil and gas-rich Persian Gulf states will help close the gap.

“This tour has two main themes: investments and a financial dimension. We have high hopes for both of them,” Erdogan told a news conference at an Istanbul airport before departure.

“Turkey will have a serious investment opportunity in the defense industry, infrastructure investments and superstructure in all three countries,” he added. “In addition, these countries will have the opportunity to buy certain assets from Turkey.”

As part of the Turkish president’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries signed various agreements in various fields, including investment, defense industry, energy and communications.

The National News