Alper ÇALIK / firstname.lastname@example.org
Nero Industries, which has a broad product portfolio of subsystems for military platforms, exports its products to 22 countries. Behind this success lie the ARES Fire Suppression Systems, which have become the flagship of the company as an indigenously developed and field-proven product. We were given a briefing about the ARES product family by Alican Ökçün, Chairman of the Board of Nero Industries.
MSI TDR: Mr. Ökçün, there are many issues we would like to discuss related to ARES systems, but firstly could you tell us about how the idea of developing an indigenous system in such a challenging area as fire suppression systems emerge?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: Fire suppression systems are a highly critical part of platform, as such systems are usually the last point of defence on armoured vehicles. We realised that no enterprise had been operating in this area for many years, and so considering it our duty, we launched our R&D activities in this area in 2010, carrying out study in various fields ranging from sensors to fire extinguishing cylinders. As you said, this field is challenging in many regards, given the complexity of the systems, as well as the low response times and low false alarm rates required. We also encountered many difficulties in the R&D related to the systems, but we did not give up in the face of difficulties and launched our first system in 2012. We made the first domestic sales of our product in 2014, and two years later, we made the first export of ARES systems in 2016. In my opinion, the fact that we made our first export only two years after our first sale in the country should be considered a great success. Thereafter, we built on this success with many new contracts.
3,000 Systems, 22 Countries and 50 Different Vehicles
MSI TDR: How would you quantify this success in terms of delivery and export figures?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: So far, we have completed the delivery and integration of over 3,000 ARES systems, meaning that we have provided more than 3,000 land vehicles with protection against explosion and fire risks. While some of these deliveries were made at home, others have been made abroad. The number of countries to which we have exported our products has reached 22, and the vehicles onto which we have integrated our systems to date ranges from tactical wheeled armoured vehicles to main battle tanks, and from armoured personnel carriers to self-propelled howitzers. We have even integrated ARES systems into armoured engineering vehicles. To date, we have integrated our systems into approximately 50 different types of vehicles.
Fast and Reliable Systems
MSI TDR: So, what do you think is the main reason behind this large user base you have established?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: For land vehicles, the performance of a fire suppression system is determined by certain parameters, such as low response time and low false alarm rate. In these systems, response times are important, because the sooner the system intervenes in the event of a fire or explosion, the less or no damage is the explosion can do to the vehicle and crew. For example, in rocket propelled grenade (RPG) attacks, after the rocket’s shaped charge bursts outside the vehicle, it penetrates the vehicle’s armour and a flare begins to form inside the vehicle. If the system reacts late to the flare, the flare becomes so big that it would be impossible to extinguish, no matter what you do. Similarly, the system’s false alarm rate should be as low as possible, as optical sensors are not intended to trigger the fire extinguishing cylinders in case of light entering the vehicle when a door is opened, or when a cigarette is lit inside. Otherwise, a system integrated to the vehicle aimed at increasing the safety of the personnel instead becomes a source of anxiety, and they start to live with the question of “I wonder if the cylinders will discharge if I do this or that?” We do not want the crew, who may already be working under difficult conditions, to experience such an additional problem. For this reason, we have developed the ARES systems in such a way that they offer superior features in terms of response time and false alarm rates, all in accordance with NATO standards. I think this is the main reason behind the success of the system. In addition to the critical performance metrics that determine the performance of the system, we offer many advantages to the user. Based on the success we have achieved with these systems, we can today shape the vision of the sector in the field of fire suppression systems.
We have completed the delivery and integration of over 3,000 ARES systems, meaning that we have provided more than 3,000 land vehicles with protection against explosion and fire risks. While some of these deliveries were made at home, others have been made abroad. The number of countries to which we have exported our products has reached 22.
MSI TDR: Could you tell us about the other advantages you offer to the user?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: They are mostly features that make the lives of those operating in the field easier. For example, our ARES III+ control units have the ability to keep logs, which allows the control units to keep track of exactly when and why alarm conditions occurred in the system and the error conditions within the system. This feature also lets the user know of any pressure or detonator errors in the extinguishing cylinders, any detector errors, and whether or not a manual or automatic activation has occurred. Thus, end users gain a deeper knowledge of the operation of the system by analysing past events. Furthermore, since our controllers also have a CAN-bus connection, the ARES system can be connected to the vehicle’s on-board computer. The Maintenance Mode feature enables system maintenance without the risk of the accidental discharge of the cylinders. We can also add a small battery with up to 48 hours of run time to ARES systems, if required by the user. Thus, the system continues to provide uninterrupted protection, even if the vehicle’s ignition switch is off or the battery is exhausted.
50 Percent Cheaper than Similar Products
MSI TDR: What can you say about quality or price/performance ratio?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: ARES is a complex system consisting of many subcomponents, including detectors, control boxes and fire extinguishing cylinders. We produce all these subsystems with a quality understanding aimed at excellence, and test all of them both individually and as an integrated system prior to delivery. This is our approach to quality. With regard to the price/performance ratio, we sell our products, which perform at least as well as those of our competitors around the world, for half of the price charged by them.
MSI TDR: Can you tell us about Nero Industries’ approach to ARES systems with regard to integrated logistics support (ILS)?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: In fact, as with all of our products, our main goal with ARES is to keep our systems in the field constantly active. Accordingly, we offer maintenance and repair services to our users through 50 different representatives across Turkey. In addition, we have six after-sales teams that are always in the field, ready to provide services at any time. When necessary, they go to where the user is located and provide the required on-site services. That said, we also provide various trainings to the relevant maintenance personnel of the user so that the user is not completely dependent on us.
MSI TDR: At the point you have achieved so far, how do you rate ARES systems’ position in the world?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: We already have a 95 percent share in the domestic market, and we are one of only three producers around the world. Our competitors in the global market are companies with a history of 40–50 years, and with ARES systems, we are successfully competing with them in terms of quality and performance, in 22 countries.
Eyes on Three New Sectors
MSI TDR: What kind of activities are you planning to carry out in the coming period in order to maintain this position and to move even further forward?
Alican ÖKÇÜN: The defence and aerospace sector requires a lot of R&D work, and the cost of R&D studies in the sector is quite high. In line with our principle of putting human life above everything else, we try to keep our prices at the lowest level so that we can offer the advantages of our products to everybody. It is quite difficult to melt these two conflicting factors in the same pot in a sustainable manner. Therefore, our future targets include opening up to the civilian sectors Accordingly, we have launched efforts to enter the air, sea and commercial land platforms. In this direction, we will expand the scope of our ARES systems with three new product families, namely ARES AERO, ARES MARINE and ARES BUS, respectively, and we will utilise the revenues gained from these sectors to meet the R&D needs of our defence-oriented projects. We have already started to reap the rewards of the steps we have taken to date, and have started developing the first components of the new product families. Among the new components, the design, prototype production or test phase of which have already been completed, are the spherical extinguishers and smoke detectors for the ARES AERO and ARES MARINE Control Units. Meanwhile, it is worth mentioning that each of these three sectors involve various challenges. For example, the requirements of the aviation sector are much greater than those of other sectors, while in the maritime sector, systems must be much more resistant to such environmental conditions as corrosion, and the costs should be very low in the commercial vehicles sector. There are many such difficulties that await us. However, just like we succeeded in putting forth such challenging product families as ARES, ARMA, and the MARS and UMAY systems, I believe we will be successful also in these new sectors.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Alican Ökçün, Chairman of the Board of Nero Industries, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.