With the blessing of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's executive and then President Mauricio Macri's team, two publicly owned companies from Turkey and Argentina have agreed on a strategic alliance to strengthen their international presence and position themselves in the increasingly competitive global space arena.
The Turkish aerospace and defence industry giant, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) - manufacturer of fighter planes, attack helicopters and military drones - and the Argentine company INVAP, dedicated to the development and construction of nuclear power plants, industrial technologies for defence, security and space, as well as medical and scientific equipment, have formed a joint venture in equal parts for the design, manufacture and marketing of new generation communication satellites.
Named Gsatcom Space Technologies and headquartered in Ankara, it brings together the capabilities of both organisations in designing and building communications platforms for their respective countries. INVAP's assembly, integration and testing facilities are located in the city of San Carlos de Bariloche - province of Río Negro, in Patagonia -, while TAI's satellite production, integration and testing factories are in the capital of the Eurasian Republic.
The initiative launched by both governments through the joint venture between INVAP -an acronym for INVestigaciones APlicadas- and TAI is a joint attempt to gain full sovereignty in the space field, increase the technological presence of both countries in the international market and offer a new range of "tailor-made" communication satellites, especially oriented to provide broadband Internet to countries with very limited resources. La Casa Rosada has described the agreement as a "milestone" for the Argentine industry and sees the alliance as "a great opportunity" to consolidate the Bariloche-based company in the international market.
INVAP has accumulated the experience of having built the Arsat-1 and Arsat-2 communications satellites - placed in orbit in October 2014 and September 2015, respectively - and of having started the development of Arsat 3 last February, which was cancelled by Macri and resurrected by current President Alberto Fernández. It is also responsible for the Saocom-1A synthetic aperture radar satellites, in orbit since October 2018, and the Satcom-1B, whose launch has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Turkish Aerospace is the prime contractor and the main supplier of the first Turkish home-made communications platform - Turksat 6A - and years ago it helped to make all the spacecraft manufactured by Airbus or Mitsubishi Electric for Türksat, the local satellite communications operator, a reality.
According to Luis Genovese, executive director of Gsatcom, the latest innovation provided by the Turkish-Argentinean company is satellites "à la carte, of modular and scalable design". Of the type called SmallGeo, they will be of high performance or HTS, weighing between 0.5 and 2 tons, with full electric propulsion and with reconfigurable equipment on board "to adapt to the changing demands of the market", both in the emission and orientation of the signals and in their power. And that they can "accommodate the entire range of existing launchers". In short, something that the industry considers a kind of "letter to the wise men".
One of the reasons for forming industrial cooperation is the desire of both governments to increase their commercial transactions. Argentina has focused its attention on the Turkish industry TAI because of its great economic and technological potential. If everything goes well, INVAP will be able to take engineering risks and get support for its nuclear plant exports, which are already operating in Algeria, Australia, Egypt, Peru, Saudi Arabia, soon in Brazil and also in the Netherlands.
On the Turkish side, the business pact means increasing its presence and influence in the Mercosur countries, a market of 295 million consumers 10,000 kilometres away, in which Ankara is insufficiently established but which is very appealing for the Eurasian country's products.
The project had been in the making for a couple of years and was completed on the occasion of the 13th G20 summit, the first to be organised in South America, which took place in Buenos Aires on 30 November and 1 December 2018. It was hosted by President Mauricio Macri, then president of Argentina since December 2015, after defeating Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the general elections.
The meeting was attended by the heads of state of the world's most important industrial powers, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived in the Buenos Aires capital accompanied by three of his ministers, those of Foreign Affairs, Finance and National Defence, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Berat Albayrak and Hulusi Akar, respectively.
The two heads of state held a bilateral meeting on the last day of the conclave at the Costa Salguero complex, the place chosen to hold the G20 leaders' summit, a luxurious convention center located in the residential neighborhood of Palermo, on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. Macri and Erdogan agreed to strengthen relations between the two countries in all areas, but especially in commercial and technological fields.
In a statement from the Casa Rosada after the conversation, it was stated that the Turkish leader confirmed to President Macri his government's "support" for Argentina's entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its intention to increase trade with Mercosur. The then Argentine president conveyed to his colleague his interest in increasing the presence of Turkish companies in Argentina and his desire to strengthen technological cooperation to promote both countries' development.
The G20 summit allowed the Turkish ministers who accompanied Erdogan to Buenos Aires to meet with their Argentine counterparts -Jorge Marcelo Faurie (Foreign Affairs), Nicolás Dujovne (Finance), Oscar Aguad (Defence) and Fulvio Pompeo, Secretary of Strategic Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic-, who went into the details of the possible future agreement between INVAP and TAI.
However, despite good intentions, nothing was committed. The meeting had taken place at an inconvenient time for both parties. Turkey was subject to strict budgetary discipline, immersed in a process of stabilisation and with the implementation of an extensive anti-inflation programme.
Argentina, the third largest economy in South America, had started 2018 with a significant recovery in its accounts, but in the second quarter the trend changed abruptly. Argentines' purchasing power collapsed as a result of inflation of over 47%, forcing Mauricio Macri to ask for help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) twice and to close the year with a 2.6% drop in GDP.
It was the efforts of the last Argentine ambassadors in Ankara -Jorge Alejandro Mastropietro since March 2019-, and of the Turkish plenipotentiary in Buenos Aires, Vural Altay, that gave the definitive impulse that gave life in May of a year ago to the transcontinental alliance Gsatcom Space Technologies. The second step was the signing of a contract between INVAP and TAI in mid-September to start the initial phases to produce and commercialise the first satellites.