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CES Advanced Composites, an Açık Group Company operating in the defence and aerospace sector, has witnessed extremely rapid growth since 2012, developing indigenous solutions for numerous critical needs in the process. Offering globally-competitive solutions, particularly in ballistic protection, the company has ambitious goals for exports. We had the opportunity to hear the story of CES Advanced Composites and its plans for the future from Taner Düvenci, Member of the Board in charge of Defence and Aerospace at Açık Group; and Çağla Pınar Turunçoğlu, Managing Director of CES Advanced Composites.
MSI TDR: CES Advanced Composites is engaged in many important projects in the field of ballistic protection and defence, details of which we’ll be discussing in a short while; but before we move on to this subject, could you tell us how CES Advanced Composites first entered into this field, and how it has made so much progress in such a short time frame?
Taner DÜVENCİ: There are three aspects to consider hereto answer. The first one has to do with the state of the Turkish defence and aerospace sector. Turkey has recently concentrated on this sector. The main drive comes from President of our country, encouraging significant incentives and support from agencies such as the Ministry of National Defence (MND), the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB). Whenever a need emerges for a national or indigenous requirement, the SSB – which is closely keeping track of our capabilities and those of other companies – orients us as necessary. We have hosted, and will continue to host, top-ranking officials and procurement specialists from the MND, TAF, SSB and the General Command of Gendarmerie at our facilities, introducing them to the products we manufacture, as well as our infrastructure investments in equipment and facilities. As a result, we have received very positive feedback and stretching demands from the procurement authorities that motivate us to keep pushing our organisation to even greater achievements. To meet these demands, we have built a highly enthusiastic team that is a perfect blend of youth and experience, combining global market knowledge together with energy and dynamism.
The second aspect has to do with the importance Açık Group attaches to the sector. From Yüksel Açık, the Chairman of the Board of Açık Group, to every employee at CES, we’re approaching the field of defence and aerospace with a “Turkey first” perspective. We want to work on and roll out indigenous solutions in every area where it is possible to do so. In line with this objective, CES Advanced Composites joined Açık Group in 2012, and while it was only a small workshop at the time, it underwent rapid and substantial growth through investments in human resources, facilities, equipment and infrastructure, becoming a factory operating in line with international standards and with a global reach. The large majority of these investments have been made using the Company’s own resources, or with revenues generated by the Group’s other activities. Our plan is to double the investments we’ve made so far by the end of 2020, through the opening of factories in different locations around the globe.
Açık Group is engaged in many different fields, including telecommunications, air conditioning, construction and cybersecurity. Looking at our turnover, we can say that after telecommunications, which is the flagship sector of Açık Group, CES Advanced Composites and Defence Technologies is the shining star of the group so gets many investments.
The third aspect has to do with human resources, about which Mrs. Turunçoğlu can certainly tell you more.
Çağla Pınar TURUNÇOĞLU: The CES Advanced Composites team stands out with the added-value they bring to our operations. To give you an example from the field of ballistic protection, part of our core team has previously worked on the MİLGEM project, specifically in the design and application of armour to the mission-critical sections of the vessel. This project was the first indigenous advanced composite ballistic protection project and has served as the foundation to all future ballistic protection-related works that are on the agenda today. This team boasts 15 years of experience and has a deep knowledge of the different materials and complex processes involved, as well as the relevant end-product manufacturers and raw-material suppliers around the world. Given these circumstances, although this team started working on ballistic protection only a few years ago under the umbrella of CES Advanced Composites, the experience the team brings means that it has entered the game many steps ahead of its rivals. The team has already started to spark interest in Europe.
CES Advanced Composites ballistic protection solutions have proven their mettle time and time again during tests.
Making a Difference with Material and Process Knowledge of Advanced Composites
MSI TDR: In which areas does CES Advanced Composites operate?
Çağla Pınar TURUNÇOĞLU: We group CES Advanced Composites’ areas of activity under three categories, which are aviation composites, defence composites and ballistic protection.
In the aviation category, we supply parts to the platform producers in this field, such as Lockheed Martin (Sikorsky) and Turkish Aerospace Industries. Aside from these companies, we’re also an approved supplier for Leonardo, and have this year entered a qualification process for Boeing. Our works in aviation proceed according to an approach we call “build-to-print”, which involves the customer sharing production details with us, after which we carry out the production part through qualified and constantly-inspected processes.
CES Advanced Composites also provides armour solutions for aerial vehicles. As well as working on the armouring of BLACK HAWK and Mi-17 helicopters in Turkey, the company also became, at an international level, a solution partner of Paramount Group in this area.
Aviation has very tight quality control requirements, which we have fully internalised and fully implement in all CES Advanced Composites activities, even those unrelated to aviation. We further crown our superiority over our competitors with quality certificates we have received.
Our activities cover all aspects of the defence sector, including those that are not directly related to ballistic protection. We work with Turkey’s leading land platform manufacturers, such as BMC, FNSS and Otokar. In lieu of metallic parts, we design, produce and integrate onto vehicles advanced composite parts that lighten the platform and consequently increase their mobility, while fully meeting the relevant structural and physical requirements. We carefully select the optimum materials and production processes to be used in these works, laying out the most cost-effective and appropriate solutions. With some of our customers, we begin working with their engineers right at the draft design stage, where we can add even more value.
Aside from land vehicles, we’re also producing advanced composite parts for various other products manufactured by the sector’s leading players, such as ASELSAN, HAVELSAN, ROKETSAN and KALE AERO, as well as the various agencies of TÜBİTAK.
Ballistic protection is definitely our forte. We have a highly competent team, up-to-date technologies that make a difference, and a strong network of raw material suppliers, all of which help us roll out globally-competitive solutions. Our leading position can be clearly understood, not only by looking at the technical features of equivalent products, but also the comments we receive from different users around the world. Our overall product offering contains a diverse portfolio of different products, including ballistic helmets, ballistic plates and vests, spall liners and add-on armour. At their heart is the optimal combination of lightweight composite materials and processes to produce class leading lightweight solutions.
MSI TDR: How have these areas of activity developed since CES Advanced Composites joined Açık Group?
Çağla Pınar TURUNÇOĞLU: CES Advanced Composites was initially a small-scale workshop operating in the field of aviation. After joining Açık Group at the end of 2012, the company began to lean more towards defence, in line with the vision of Yüksel Açık, our Board Chairman. Over time its organisational structure evolved in time and new investments were made to support the manufacture of new products.
However, in the processes pertaining to our certification and approval as a supplier, there are certain defined timeframes we cannot really shorten. So, as we completed these projects, we took the time to develop in-parallel defence-related projects. These have helped us to ensure the sustainability of our operations by creating alternate revenue streams, allowing our activities to continue unabated. For example, part of our team has experience in the automotive sector, and this has facilitated our cooperation with land platform manufacturers.
Our company has experienced a gradual migration into other segments, starting with aviation, continuing into defence, and later evolving into ballistic protection. The course we followed was largely determined by the requirements of the sector. As requirements and projects began centring around defence and ballistic protection-related projects, we followed suit by redirecting our investments to meet the growing demand in these areas, developing our capacity and capabilities accordingly.
While our works on defence and ballistic protection might have gained prominence in recent times, this doesn’t mean we’ve turned our back on aviation. While all these activities in new areas are ongoing, we’ve also launched efforts to become an approved supplier of Boeing. We are in fact one of the companies in Turkey that they have shortlisted as a possible candidate in the field of composites. In the meantime, we’re also continuing to develop our own aviation products, such as parts for aircraft cabin interiors.