STM inks cyber security agreement with ministry

Defense engineering, design and software powerhouse STM has inked a protocol with Turkey’s interior ministry with the scope of “Reviewing and Improving Existing Information Technology and Security Infrastructure”, TR Defence sources reported on April 21.

While the details of the protocol are not included in the report, the new agreement is likely part of the country’s wider, renewed efforts in improving its national information handling and storage systems following several prior high-profile leaks.

In one such event that took place in 2010, a database comprised of voter registration information was compromised, resulting in a leak involving millions of Turkish citizens’ names, addresses, basic family information and national identification numbers.

Rebel defeat in northern Syria cripples Turkey’s plans

It is no longer a secret that when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had his series of meetings with top American officials in Washington last month, he had a specific plan to kick DAESH out from northern Syria. Erdoğan tried to convince the American leadership to give another shot to Syrian Arab groups near Azaz and asked for intensified American logistics support and air cover for their offensives along the Turkish border. That was not a surprise because General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter were already publicly signaling a revival of the train-and-equip program for Turkey-backed Syrian groups. These groups would receive military training, including how to call in airstrikes on the enemy.

Ankara has used every way to make sure the U.S. would stick with the red lines imposed on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey preventing the PKK-linked YPG’s entrance to Manbij and Jarablous requires an alternative and the U.S. seemed cautiously open to Turkish proposals. As U.S. Secretary of State Jon Kerry said earlier this month, the U.S. still considers sealing the 145kilometers of the Turkish-Syrian border controlled by DAESH as a priority.

This is why the anti-DAESH coalition significantly increased its airstrikes and Turkish artillery fire around Azaz over the past two weeks, and the Syrian opposition seized the crucial town of al-Rai along the border. But the victory was short-lived since DAESH seized the area back and disgraced the Syrian rebels by burning refugee camps and even creating a new wave of refugees to Turkey. Meanwhile, the YPG in Afrin simultaneously continued to attack opposition-held territory and made sure the YPG has no intentions of brokering an alliance in the area with rebels.

Even worse, DAESH has begun to target Turkey’s border town of Kilis with Katyusha rockets, which has caused great harm on the civilian population. DAESH has targeted the town for the last two weeks and, as a result, five Syrian refugees, three of them children, and two Turkish citizens died while dozens of citizens were wounded.

Let’s face it, Ankara is backed into a tight corner with these developments. It cannot tolerate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) additional seizure of territory and it cannot transform weak rebels into a victorious force in a night either. And DAESH is still infiltrating into Turkey from across the border and targeting Turkish citizens and Syrian refugees. No problems are solved and U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, especially the pro-PYD officials, thinks their point is getting validated.

This is why we hear more American calls for a PKK cease-fire and a complete withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey to Syria and Iraq, because the U.S. believes the chances for a Turkish plan to succeed are not very high and pushing the PKK into its caves while it is aiding the fight against DAESH seems a calculated move.

The problem with this plan, however, is Ankara is still not giving up on its own plan. There is no other option for Ankara, which does not believe the PKK would abandon violence unless it is militarily defeated. The point is that Ankara tried to figure a way out regarding the PKK since 2009, and it has not worked. Now, a PKK affiliate ruling a large swathe of territory in Syria makes it even a lesser possibility that the PKK would return to the negotiating table.

If Washington is seriously planning to convince Ankara on this front, officials should make sure the PKK ends its violence at once and withdraws from Turkey without any preconditions. Maybe there might be some hope for this American adventure. Who knows?

Daily Sabah

Japanese stealth fighter goes airborne

Japan’s first stealth fighter jet successfully took to the skies on Friday as the country joins a select group of world military powers wielding the radar-dodging technology.

Technological super power Japan, despite strict constitutional constraints on the use of military force imposed after World War II, has one of the world’s most advanced defense forces and the development of the stealth fighter comes as it faces new security challenges in the form of China’s expanding force posture.

The domestically developed X-2 jet took off from Nagoya airport in central Japan on its maiden test flight as dozens of aviation enthusiasts watching the event erupted in applause as it lifted off into the clear morning sky.

Television footage showed the red-and-white aircraft roaring into the air, escorted by two Japanese military fighters that were collecting flight data.

The single-pilot prototype safely landed at Gifu air base, north of Nagoya airport, after a 25-minute flight with “no particular problems,” said an official at the defense ministry’s acquisition agency.

It was an “extremely stable” flight, the pilot was quoted as saying by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the main contractor.

“The control of the aircraft went exactly as in our simulated training sessions,” the pilot added.

The inaugural flight, which followed extensive ground tests, had been postponed due to bad weather and malfunctions of parts used in its escape system.

“The first flight has a very significant meaning that can secure technologies needed for future fighter development,” Defense Minister General Nakatani told reporters.

“We also expect it can be applied to other fields and technological innovation in the entire aviation industry,” Nakatani added.

The X-2, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and 200 other firms, measures 14.2 meter (47 feet) long and 9.1 meter wide and was built as a successor to F-2 fighter jets developed jointly with the United States.

Its delivery to the defense ministry is expected as early as next month and the acquisition agency “will continue analyzing data and check its stealth technology capability,” the agency official told AFP.

Presently, only the United States, Russia and China have been internationally recognized as having successfully developed and flown manned stealth jets, the agency said.

Japan began the project in 2009 and has reportedly spent about 39.4 billion yen ($332 million) to develop the aircraft.

The country was barred from developing aircraft for a number of years after its defeat in World War II but eventually produced the YS-11, a propeller passenger plane that began flying in the early 1960s.

In another aviation milestone in November last year, Japan’s first domestically produced passenger jet, also developed by Mitsubishi Heavy, made its maiden test flight.

Daily Sabah

Aselsan and Roketsan work on national air defense

National Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said that works on the HİSAR national air defense system are continuing at full speed. The HİSAR project, expected to be finished by 2020, was initiated after Turkey cancelled a bid with China for a long-range air defense system. Yılmaz said that the decision was made after Turkey changed objectives, focusing instead on the domestic development of a defense system.

The national defense minister said that Turkish defense system producers Aselsan and Roketsan are the prime contractor and subcontractor of the HİSAR project, respectively. The decision to cancel the bid with China came in spite of a decision by the Defense Industry Executive Committee in 2013 to launch negotiations with China for the Long-Range Missile Defense System. Negotiations were officially halted on Nov. 13 last year in lieu of a decision on domestic production for the proposed system.

Yılmaz stressed that the decision was made under the pretext that defense policies must be based on long-term national studies that focus on the principle of deterrence.

Addressing questions raised by the ministers of Parliament regarding Turkey’s national air defense system, Yılmaz also said that many other companies operating in the defense industry play a crucial role in the development and production processes of the subcomponents of respective air defense systems. He added that air defense systems differ according to their ranges, emphasizing that the development processes varies as well, depending on the respective altitudes and ranges. Alongside the project, Aselsan is developing new radar, command and control systems as well as fire control systems, while Roketsan is developing the missile systems of the HİSAR project.

Daily Sabah

Roketsan to Unveil Guided 122mm Rockets

Turkish missile manufacturer Roketsan is preparing to unveil a guided version of its popular TR-122 Sakarya multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), TR Defence sources confirmed on Tuesday.

The new version has the same range, composite rocket engine and warhead options as its unguided twin but also features a new passive laser seeker that allows the artillery rocket to home in on targets designated by a third party from a safe distance.

“We can now hit targets with pinpoint accuracy. All (that is) needed is someone to paint the target so that it knows exactly where to strike,” a Roketsan employee familiar with the program said on condition of anonymity.

Sakarya II can be guided to its target during the terminal stage of its flight by an UAV or another aerial asset, or an infantry element with a mobile target designator.

“It is now capable of engaging both stationary and moving targets… a world-leading technology in its class,” added the employee.

TR Defence has learned that field tests of the new version are underway and results so far have been promising. Roketsan is expected to officially unveil the new product later in the year and offer it for both TSK use and export.

PKK: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

On July 11, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the PKK, issued a written statement to unilaterally end the two-year cease-fire citing public projects, including the construction of dams, in southeastern Turkey. Several days later, a member of the KCK Executive Committee called on PKK militants to take up arms against the Turkish state. Finally, PKK militants killed two civilians and two police officers under the pretext of retaliating against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) suicide attack on July 20. Four days later, Turkish F-16s started launching airstrikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq in an effort to push the organization to reinstate the cease-fire and withdraw of armed militants from Turkey as a first step toward disarmament. More than a few international media outlets, however, would like you to believe that the Turkish government, specifically President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, broke the cease-fire in order to help the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reclaim its parliamentary majority. Although there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim, more than a few reporters conveniently ignored the basic principles of journalism in order to pass off full-blown conspiracy theories as news.

It all began in 2011 when the Turkish government launched the Kurdish reconciliation process to sponsor public projects in the southeast and promote broader cultural rights for the Kurdish community. Despite paying lip service to the prospect of peace, the PKK seized the opportunity to stockpile weapons, recruit new members and draw out plans for future attacks, which enabled the organization, whose withdrawal from Turkey has been pending for two years, to perpetrate attacks with relative ease. Considering that the vast majority of Turkey’s Kurds continue to support the disarmament talks, it should be quite clear that the PKK not only disagrees with, but also ignores the demands of millions of Kurds for peace.

Believing that anyone with a basic sense of time can figure out that the PKK shot first, let us offer an often ignored yet quite crucial question: What exactly does the PKK aim to accomplish through violence? The government has already taken steps to promote Kurds’ cultural rights by forcing the authorities to deal with the Kurdish question through dialogue and democratization as opposed to violence. The fact that international journalists are too busy with softball interviews for the record does not relieve the PKK leadership of their responsibility to explain, without resorting to conspiracy theories, why they thought it was a good idea to turn their back on peace and started walking around guns blazing. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has neither been able to distance itself from terrorism and make a genuine effort to push for the PKK’s disarmament.

The real reason behind the PKK’s most recent attacks has been the understanding that they can translate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) territorial gains in northern Syria and international popularity into political momentum in Turkey. Moving forward, the PKK leadership aims to expand the conflict zone into residential areas and town centers in order to promote violence among the general population. In other words, the organization seeks to trigger an ethnic conflict, akin to the sectarian tensions across the Middle East, which will be fought at the grassroots level.

Daily Sabah believes that the rising tide of violence takes a disproportionate toll on the Kurdish community. Not only are many Kurds affected by terrorist attacks in their vicinity but the organization itself not infrequently launches direct attacks against Kurdish members of the security forces and civilians. In order to promote peace and stability in Turkey, bridging the development gap between the country’s various parts remains a must. The PKK, as such, must reinstate the cease-fire without further delay in order to continue negotiations with Turkish authorities and find meaningful alternatives to violence.

For weeks, the media and the international community have given the PKK a free pass citing the organization’s role in fighting ISIS. Another serious problem with the media coverage is that major news outlets tend to present Turkey’s ongoing military effort as a war against the Kurdish people, which simply does not reflect the truth. Excited by the PYD’s advances against ISIS in Syria, many observers seem to have forgotten that not only Turkey, but also the United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist organization. In the age of global terrorism, there is no room to play favorites.

Daily Sabah

6 PKK terrorists killed in SE Turkey

Six PKK terrorists have been killed on Wednesday after an attack was launched by the group on a gendarme command in the Bitlis province. Four soldiers were also injured during the clashes with the PKK group.

The PKK terrorists initiated an armed attack on Hizan district’s gendarmerie command on Wednesday morning. The soldiers retaliated and a clash between the sides pursued. Four soldiers were injured and six terrorists were killed during the armed conflict.

The wounded soldiers were taken to Tatvan military hospital via helicopter. One of the soldiers, whose condition was critical, was referred to another hospital in the Van province.

Security forces have launched an operation to track the terrorists in the region.

In a separate attack on Wednesday, PKK terrorists commenced fire on a minibus carrying police officers in the eastern province of Iğdır. The incident occurred at around 11 a.m. near the Taşburun village. The police officer named O.Ş. was injured in the attack and was taken to Iğdır State Hospital.

Formed in 1978, the PKK terrorist organization had been fighting the Turkish government for an independent state until the early 2000’s. The group then shifted its goal to autonomy in predominately Kurdish inhabited regions of Turkey.

The PKK announced on July 11 that the cease-fire which was declared via a message from the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan in 2013 has ended.

Daily Sabah

Turkey cancels visa-free travel for Libyans

Turkey has cancelled visa-free travel for Libyan nationals, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

The 2009 agreement meant Turkey was one of the few countries Libyans could travel to without a visa.

Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç told journalists in Ankara that from Sept. 24 Libyans would need a visa to enter Turkey.

He said the decision was due to security concerns and political uncertainty in Libya.

“The removal of visa-free travel does not mean any change in Turkey’s approach towards the Libyan people,” Bilgiç said, adding Turkey would continue to support its “brother” Libyans.

Daily Sabah

Turkey to acquire heavy lift airplane

Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, SSM, is preparing to issue an RfI for the acquisition of a freighter airplane, sources familiar with SSM’s aerospace procurement programs informed TR Defence on Wednesday.

The requirement was said to be for a single airplane at this time.

“[Turkey] needs this aircraft to haul heavy, precious cargo to long distances. For example, when we needed to transport our new reconnaissance satellite [referring to the Gokturk-1] to the TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) facilities a few months ago for planned tests and most recently to ship a T-129 [ an attack helicopter] to an international defence exhibition. At the present time, we have to spend a lot of money and rent this service from the international market. The ability to meet this requirement nationally is quickly gaining importance,” stated the report.

Procurement model for the heavy freighter airplane is expected to be a direct purchase with minimal or no domestic industry involvement. RfI is expected to be issued following a long disputed general reelection scheduled for November 1st.

SSM will likely form a new company to be jointly owned with the private sector in order to operate the new aircraft and provide heavy shipping services worldwide while the aircraft is not in use by Turkey.

Nigeria shows interest in T-129 gunship

Nigerian pilots posing in front of a T-129 ATAK at a public display in Turkey.
Nigerian pilots posing in front of a T-129 ATAK at a public display in Turkey.

It couldn’t fare too well against US counterparts in South Korea and the bid in Poland remains iffy, but Turkey’s T-129 attack helicopter can soon find its first export customer in Africa, the old continent.

According to reports coming directly from Nigeria as well as leaks from the IDEF’15. a popular international defense industry fair, Nigeria has shown great interest in Turkey’s T-129 attack helicopters to help its forces fight the rising threat Boko Haram poses in the country’s north.

T-129 is generally considered to be a more “cost-effective” platform when compared to heavier choppers such as the AH-64 Apache as it provides comparable capabilities at a faction of the cost. T-129 can fire Hellfires or Turkey’s own MIZRAK-U antitank missiles, Cirit laser guided rockets and Stinger/Igla anti-aircraft missiles. It features a 20mm automatic three-barrel cannon and an helmet mounted cueing system that allows the pilot to guide the cannon where he’s looking and engage targets.

Nigeria is already a long time customer of Turkish weapon platforms, such as Otokar’s Cobra armored personnel carriers, and has a close political and economic relationship with Turkey.

Turkey was previously alleged by various sources to have shipped light weapons and firearms to Islamist militans in Nigeria, but the allegations were successfully discredited and proven to be untrue.