Business Is Booming For
Arms Producers Since Attacks On US


ANKARA (AFP) - Small-scale producers of military equipment attending an arms show in Ankara have been enjoying a boom market since the attacks on the United States, with sales of gas masks and other light arms sharply on the rise.

"Our gas masks are selling like hotcakes," Dogan Gunhan, the head of a small Turkish company told AFP on the opening day of the 5th International Defence, Aerospace and Maritime Industry (IDEF) show.

There has been a "strong demand in the United States and Israel" for a variety of the gas masks produced by Gunhan's Guvenli Yasam company. The company name translates to "safe life".

Guvenli Yasam is exhibiting alongside industry giants such as France's Giat, producer of the Leclerc tank, which is in the bidding for a lucrative contract with the Turkish army.

A spokeswoman for Giat said that since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington and the explosion at a plant in the southwestern French city of Toulouse, the company has seen rising interest in its nuclear, biological and chemical products, with air-filters and protection masks topping clients' enquiry lists.

Some of the big US names in the military equipment industry -- the likes of Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, Textron, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics -- all among the show's 254 exhibitors, saw their share prices climb in spectacular fashion in the wake of the attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"God willing, our orders will climb, too," Ergun Ozsoy of Turkish group Nurol said.

Nurol manufactures light armoured vehicles in Turkey, under licence from an American firm for sale to the Turkish army. The armed forces in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are also on its client list.

State-owned Pakistan Ordnance Factories is hoping to fill its order books at the show, despite Karachi walking a political tightrope in central Asia: Pakistan continues to recognise the Taliban government in power in Afghanistan.

"We sell light arms and munitions to clients in some thirty countries, and we are hoping to increase our turnover," Khawan Navaz said for the Pakistani firm, quickly pointing out that Karachi also agreed to held the United States in its fight against terrorism.

While business in the sector pundits refer to as "individual defense" is booming, with small arms, munitions, gas masks, and alarms being snapped up, arms industry giants say the new war against terrorism is changing the face of the industry and will force them to embrace, and come up with, some new concepts.

"The traditional concept of what constitutes a threat is being redefined," Turkish Defence Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said, citing what he called the "dramatic" events in the United States and rising tension between Israel and the Palestinians.

"People carrying no firearms whatsoever claimed 7,000 lives in one single act of violence," a Ukrainian arms manufacturer at the show said. "You can't expect to fight that kind of enemy with tanks."

A French industry official at the show said "the fight against terrorism is a parameter that has to be integrated" in developing new kinds of arms, but added that a boom in the concept sector depends on "what the Americans do next."

The attacks will "certainly lead to development in the intelligence sector, and to new rapid deployment concepts," he added.



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