By Ezgi Erkoyun
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish defence and electronics firms are teaming up to produce 5,000 ventilators to help treat coronavirus patients, the head of a military drone manufacturer said on Tuesday.
Baykar Chief Executive Haluk Bayraktar said 100 engineers from his company, defence contractor Aselsan and household electronics maker Arcelik were working together to have the ventilators ready by the end of May.
They will be accelerating production of a ventilator made by Turkish biomedical company Biosys, of which only 12 are currently being used.
“Initially, we are racing to deliver 1,000 ventilators by mid-April,” he told Reuters, adding that they would be handed over to Turkey’s health ministry.
Turkey diagnosed its first coronavirus patient less than three weeks ago, but the number of cases has surged since then to more than 10,000, with 725 people in intensive care.
Governments and hospitals globally have pleaded with manufacturers to speed up production of ventilators to cope with a surge in patients struggling to breathe.
Bayraktar said some components were currently being procured from abroad while his company and Aselsan set up a domestic supply network for the ventilator components.
The military companies will make the parts for the ventilator, which will be mass produced by Arcelik.
“It is possible to produce this ventilator for $6,500 while an imported equivalent would cost some 20,000 euros,” he said. “This is the first step of mass production, the costs might fall as production numbers increase.”
Baykar’s military unmanned aerial vehicles have played a crucial role in Turkish cross-border operations against Kurdish YPG militia in northeast Syria and against Syrian government forces in Idlib province.
He said some companies have paid for the production of more than 1,000 ventilators to be given to the health ministry as part of a charity campaign initiated by his company.
Other countries have also sought to step up ventilator production. Britain has ordered 10,000 devices from a consortium of leading aerospace, engineering and Formula One racing companies, while in the United States Ford Motor Co said it will produce 50,000 over the next 100 days.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans)