Defence Innovations from Turkey

Otokar’s COBRA 2

Turkey has a vibrant and increasingly capable defence industry that is determined to boost its export earnings up to $2 billion a year, a goal that the Defence and Aerospace Industry Exporters Association says is well within reach.

Broadly based and innovative, its products include aircraft, land vehicles, warships, weapon systems ranging from small arms to guided missiles, C4ISR systems, RF and EO and electronic warfare systems. Other efforts are focused on logistics and support systems and services. A large home market and government policy to build a rounded indigenous industry underpins all of them.

Policy Evolution

Evolution in the country’s defence procurement has progressed in four distinct stages. Before 1990, the policy for major platforms and weapon systems was essentially one of direct procurement. The next decade focused on coproduction of systems, such as armoured combat vehicles, light transport aircraft, the COUGAR battlefield helicopter, mobile radar systems and High Frequency Single Side Band (HF SSB) radios. The first decade of the 21st Century saw growing confidence manifest itself in local design of big-ticket items such as the ALTAY MBT, the MILGEM National Corvette, the ANKA MALE UAV, and the HURKUS training aircraft.

Under the guidance of the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM), the industry today is also engaged in several other ambitious development programmes including the NEB bunker buster bomb, the TOROS truck based rocket artillery system, the GÖKTÜRK reconnaissance and surveillance satellite, the 105mm air transportable light towed howitzer project, the GPS/INS based HGK guidance kit for 2,000lbs bombs, the KGK wing adapter kit for long range smart bombs, plus smaller yet still vital items, such as thermal batteries for munitions.

Projects under contract to the SSM for the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) has grown over the last decade or so from $5,448 billion to $25,397 billion in 2012, although it peaked at around $27 billion in 2011. The total turnover of the defence and aviation sectors has grown strongly from around $1,855 billion in 2006 to $4,381 billion in 2011.

Growing Local Content

Local content in TAF projects is also growing steadily from 25% in 2003 to 54% in 2011, which is the last year for which the SSM has released figures. Alongside this figure, possibly not coincidentally, defence and aviation exports have grown from $331 million to $1.09 billion over the same period.

Today, co-production dominates the SSM project budget, taking 53%, while development takes 27%. Direct procurements still take a substantial share at 11%, engagement with international consortia taking 8% and R&D one percent. Major co-production projects include several F-16 efforts and the T129 attack helicopter programme, in which Turkish weapons and avionics will be integrated into the AgustaWestland A129 MANGUSTA airframe.

Turkish Land Systems Innovation

Turkey’s armoured vehicle sector is particularly strong, with four companies able to design, develop, produce, test and qualify them. These companies, Otokar, FNSS, BMC, and Nurol, dominate the home military and security vehicle market.

ALTAY and MBT Upgrades

SSM’s biggest development project is the ALTAY MBT. The Turkish government describes ALTAY as a “Generation 3 Plus” MBT. The programme was launched in 2008 with Otokar as prime contractor. The conceptual design was completed and approved by the SSM in September of 2010, giving the green light to the detailed design phase. ALTAY has successfully come through its critical design review and two prototypes have been built, the first having completed its mobility trials and the second now undergoing firepower testing, with two more set to be produced during 2013 for qualification testing. The declared budget for these stages, according to the SSM, is $500 million.

Levent Senel, Head of SSM’s Land Platforms Department, said in February that the tank will be ready for serial production by 2015, but that is not anticipated to begin until 2017 or 2018. Plans call for an initial production run of 250, which may be increased.

ALTAY ticks all the boxes to be a thoroughly modern MBT in the western idiom, its four-person crew dictated by the choice of manual loading for the 120mm L55 smoothbore main gun, which occupies an electrically driven turret. This weapon is one of the vehicle’s technological imports, the know-how having been transferred from Korea’s Hyundai Rotem, although the gun that arms the ROK’s K2 has an autoloader, reducing that MBT’s crew to three. Drawing on Russian practice, however, the gun can be used as a launcher for laser guided missiles.

The new-generation fire control system, with hunter/killer functionality, plus the C3 systems are designed and built by Aselsan. Integrated with it will be a battlefield target identification system.

Supplementing the main armament will be a Remotely Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) able to mount both 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine guns, in addition to the 7.62mm coaxial machine gun.

The first production ALTAYs will be fitted with a 1,500hp engine from MTU coupled to a transmission from Renk, but later vehicles are slated to receive a 1,800hp diesel designed and manufactured in Turkey. Automotive R&D organization OTAM, which is associated with Istanbul University, is responsible for design studies intended to lead to the first prototype ‘national tank engine’ and is working with other R&D entities and with Turkish engine manufacturers. ALTAY also has that other modern tank essential – an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).

Better known for its rocket and missile expertise, Roketsan is responsible for ALTAY’s modular composite armour package, which it is developing in its Ballistic Protection Center, the focus of its armour systems infrastructure personnel. The company has expertise in light and heavy composite armour for vehicles, ceramic and hybrid armour, design, development and production facilities for reactive armour and ballistic testing.

A laser warning system, standard on all modern MBTs, will be one contributor to a 360° situational awareness system that will include front and rear thermal and day TV cameras for the driver, who also gets an integrated display.

Helping protect the crew in the event that the tank takes a hit, is a combined fire extinguishing and explosion suppression system, with the life support system combining air conditioning with CBRN protection.

New Wheeled AFVs

As well as new and upgraded MBTs, Otokar also develops wheeled armoured vehicles, a sector in which it competes with both FNSS and Nurol.

Otokar and FNSS go head-to-head in the large 6×6 and 8×8 sectors with their respective and directly comparable ARMA and PARS vehicles, both of which are offered in both configurations and both have combat weights (for the 6×6 versions) between 18 and 18.5 tonnes. Nurol competes with both in the 6×6 sector and has had considerable success in the export market with its EJDER.

Otokar’s ARMA is a multi-purpose wheeled armoured vehicle designed to be flexible enough to be used with a variety of mission equipment and weapon systems. The FNSS PARS 8×8 AFV was shown for the first time in February 2005 during IDEX. As well as meeting the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) requirements for a wheeled APC, the PARS family of wheeled AFV is also being aimed at the export market. In 2010, FNSS has signed an LoI for Malaysia’s 8×8 Armoured Vehicles Programme for 8×8 PARS vehicles to be manufactured locally in Malaysia. The total weight of the Pars vehicle depends on the weapon fit, crew and armour package. The 8×8 model has a typical combat weight of 25 tonnes. According to FNSS, the PARS is a new family of wheeled AFVs that incorporates numerous advanced, unique features. As the vehicle has an open electronics architecture, it is claimed that inserting new technology can be achieved more easily as it becomes available. The baseline 8 × 8 Pars vehicle has a hull consisting of a composite aluminum and steel armour that provides the occupants with protection from 7.62 mm armour-piercing attack through a full 360°. Higher levels of protection are available if required, using an appliqué armour package.

Innovation and R&D

Otokar displayed some of its expanding range of vehicles at February’s IDEX event in Abu Dhabi, where the company’s General Manager Serdar Gorguc emphasised, “R&D is one of our most important assets. Today Otokar is in leading position in designing and producing armoured combat vehicles and in due course making significant investments on the R&D studies. Reinvesting 5% of our turnover on R&D activities is the actual assurance of Otokar commitments in developing new vehicles.“

FNSS’ PARS 6×6 has a mid-mounted 482hp diesel engine driving three axles through an automatic transmission. The first and third axles are steerable. Suspension is independent all round and can use either hydraulic or air shock absorbers.

All PARS variants feature a removable roof to facilitate different equipment fits for role changes. Other features include a hydraulic rear ramp, water jets to clean the wheels and tires of possible CBRN contamination, central tire inflation, an IR suppressing exhaust cooling system, panoramic glass periscopes, a hydraulic trim vane for amphibious operations and a self-recovery winch and an APU.

Turkey’s third 6×6 armoured vehicle is Nurol’s EJDER, which is not operated by Turkey but has entered service in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Libya, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe.

Nurol emphasizes EJDER’s IED protection, saying that the vehicle protects its 12 occupants to NATO standards using real mines, crash test dummies and special test equipment. The vehicle can also accept modular add-on armour packages. Nurol also stresses internal ergonomics and space that enable soldiers to carry all the weapons and ammunition they need. All-wheel drive, independent suspension and a high power-to-weight ratio contribute to what the company claims is ‘superior’ off road performance, supplemented by the ability to enter water without needing preparation. EJDER can also be carried in a C-130, says Nurol.

Engineering vehicles FNSS also offers upgrades of the venerable M113 tracked armoured vehicle and is undertaking such a project for Saudi Arabia, as well as heavier specialist systems such as its Armoured Amphibious Assault Bridge (AAAB) and the Armoured Amphibious Combat Earth mover (AACE), a two-crew vehicle based on theM9 ACE.

The AAAB is a major SSM procurement project for 52 vehicles, half of which have been delivered with the other half set to be delivered this year. Offering ballistic protection (including transparent armour) and NBC protection for the crew compartment, each vehicle carries four ramps, removing the need for an additional ramp carrier vehicle.

In ferry mode, AAAB can be configured with two bays, enabling it to carry tracked vehicles with a NATO Military Load Capacity (MLC) rating of 70. It can also be configured with three bays, which allows it to carry wheeled vehicles with an MLC of up to 100. Two AAAB vehicles together can ferry an MBT. By linking 12 vehicles together, the system can create a 153.7 m bridge.

An 8×8 with all-wheel steering, it is also fitted with a crane and an emergency anchoring system and a self-recovery winch.

Competing MRAPs

Otokar’s KAYA is a 10-seat V-hulled 4×4 based on a Mercedes UNIMOG chassis and offers a large internal volume to maximize mission flexibility. KAYA combines high levels of protection from mines and ballistic threats with high mobility and manoeuvrability over rough terrain and in extreme climates, aided by a CTIS and air conditioning. Otokar offers KAYA in APC, C2, reconnaissance, CBRN recce, medevac and maintenance support variants. KAYA is also available as a mine protected cargo carrier based on the UNIMOG 5000 chassis, which can carry 4.5t for a gross vehicle weight of 12.5 tonnes. Its Mercedes OM 924 LA diesel engine produces 218hp at 2,200rpm and 810nm of torque between 1,200 and 1,600rpm and drives through a Tiptronic electro-pneumatic gearbox to locking differentials on both axles, giving the MRAP a top speed that’s limited to 100kph.

Offered for the same set of missions as the KAYA, the larger KALE MRAP will seat up to 13 people and is powered by a 300hp diesel engine with automatic transmission. The suspension is independent and uses helical spring/shock absorber units.

Otokar’s MRAP designs draw on experience gained in the development and fielding of the COBRA multi-purpose light armoured vehicle, which has proved its worth in several conflict zones and is in service with around 20 users in more than 10 countries, according to SSM.

The other Turkish vehicle maker to enter the MRAP arena is BMC, a major supplier of tactical trucks, logistic support and special purpose vehicles to the Turkish Land Forces. The KIPRI is a 16t selectable 4×4 with seating for up to 13 people including the driver, commander, gunner and 10 fully armed soldiers. KIPRI’s 350hp Cummins diesel generates 1,550nm of torque at 1,400rpm through an automatic transmission and a transfer case that enables the driver to choose either two-wheel drive or four wheel drive and either high or low ranges. The axles incorporate planetary reduction gears and feature differential locks front and rear and are suspended on leaf springs and telescopic shocks. At combat weight, KIPRI will climb a 60% gradient and cope with a 30% side slope and offers a range of 800 km. The standard tactical specification includes a cold-start kit, blackout and camouflage lighting, rail transportability and a NATO standard towing hook, along with electrical and pneumatic connections for towing and being towed. Air conditioning with heating and cooling capability and a windscreen defroster are also standard. KIPRI also features a 360° rotating roof hatch that can support a machine gun mount. There is also a long list of options for KIPRI, which includes a self-recovery winch, ABS braking, a CTIS, run-flat tyres, GPS, a rear view camera, automatic fire suppression and a powered turret drive.

Guided Weapons

Guided weapons development is another key area for Turkey and one of its most ambitious projects is the air launched Stand Off Missile (SOM) under development by the Defence Industries Research and Development Institute (SAGE), itself part of TÜBITAK, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey.

SOM is a 600kg cruise missile with a low-observable airframe and a 230kg warhead conceived for use against heavily defended targets on land and at sea. A typical target set might include SAM sites, parked aircraft, command centres, aircraft hangars and shelters. With a stated range of more than 100nm, it outranges SAM systems and its guidance system incorporates GPS and inertial sensors with radar, terrain referenced navigation, and an imaging IR seeker plus automatic target recognition capability and selectable impact modes. The weapon has been integrated onto the F-16 and future plans call for JSF integration and compatibility with the NATO Universal Armaments Interface (UAI).

TÜBITAK SAGE is working with government owned MKEK and foreign partners on a deep penetration bomb known as NEB, an 870kg weapon with the same general external geometry as a Mk 84 general purpose bomb but containing a shaped-charge precursor warhead that makes a hole in a hardened target through which the main warhead passes before detonating about a second later. Compatible with GBU-10E/B systems, it can use laser guidance kits for these weapons, as well as SAGE’s own new HGK precision guidance kit, which uses GPS, probably combined with an inertial sensor, to provide a claimed accuracy of 6.3 metres. Plans called for NEB design studies to be complete by the first quarter of 2012.

While NEB is a specialised weapon for hardened and buried targets, the KGK is a winged guidance kit designed to transform 500lbs Mk 82 and 1,000lbs Mk 83 general purpose bombs into smart glide bombs. SAGE claims an accuracy of 10m from the GPS/INS guidance system and maximum ranges between 20nm when dropped from 10,000ft and 60nm from 30,000 feet. The impact angle can be set between 10° and 80° to maximize the weapon’s effect on the target. The maximum allowable flight speed is 600 knots.

Turkish National Sonar

In the naval sector, the first two MILGEM national corvettes have been built by the Navy itself and the Turkish government is now reported to be in negotiation with RMK Marine for the construction of the next six vessels, having apparently beaten the rival Dearsan shipyard to the $2.5 billion deal, according to a report on 05 January in the Turkish media.

The 2,300t corvettes have mission systems focused on ASW, and TÜBITAK has developed three key sonar system ‘wet end’ components. The TBT-01 transducer operates as an active/passive sensor over the 6-9kHz frequency range and as a passive sensor between 2-10kHz. The second major acoustic sensor is a ship-integrated sonar with a 288 element cylindrical array. The third system is national transducer cable.

TÜBITAK also built the infrastructure required to develop the technology in the form of the Marmara Research Centre Materials Institute’s Underwater Acoustic Laboratory. Opened officially on 14 March 2008, the UAL received accreditation from Germany’s DAP agency in April 2009. The UAL features a 15x10x7.5m test tank with a very accurate positioning system that can support sensors and arrays weighing up to 3,000kg.

Satellites and MALE UAVs

On 18 December GÖKTÜRK 2, a Turkish designed imaging reconnaissance satellite went into orbit successfully from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China. The TÜBITAK-funded spacecraft’s declared purpose it both military reconnaissance and civil environmental monitoring.

From its Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of around 700km, the 409kg GÖKTÜRK 2 circles the Earth every 98 minutes approximately and can collect imagery from anywhere in the world, revisiting any site on average once every 2.5 days, according to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), who designed, integrated and tested the satellite at its own facilities, carrying out bus assembly and integration, payload integration, mass property measurement, system level functional and thermal vacuum testing. The spacecraft’s sensors offer resolutions of 2.5m panchromatic and 5.0m multispectral. GÖKTÜRK 2’s planned operational life is five years.

Launch of the higher resolution GÖKTÜRK 1 spacecraft was scheduled for this year, but is reportedly subject to a delay of around a year as a result of a dispute with Israel, source of some sensor components.

GÖKTÜRK 1 is in development by prime contractor Telespazio following a 2009 contract between SSM and the Italian company. TAI is directly involved in work packages in Italy and France and is manufacturing some components in house.

On 25 January, the TAI-developed ANKA MALE UAS successfully completed its acceptance test campaign. This followed the final flights in the programme that took place between 20 and 22 January.

With a wingspan of 17.3m and a length of 8m, ANKA is powered by a 155hp heavy fuel engine to a service ceiling of 30,000ft with endurance of up to 24 hours. ANKA is intended for day and night, all-weather ISR missions carrying EO/IR cameras with laser designation and range finding capabilities plus SAR/ISAR/GMTI sensors. Growth potential includes SATCOM, SIGINT and communications relay payloads and the ability to send imagery and data to remote video terminals. Of the final two test flights, the first lasted more than 18 hours. TAI says that this flight successfully demonstrated the aircraft’s full endurance and the data link’s 200km range in wind speeds that reached 45 knots. The second and final flight test on 22 January demonstrated the night capability of its automatic take-off and landing system.

The acceptance campaign began in the last quarter of 2012 and encompassed about 130 different ground and flight tests, witnessed by SSM and Turkish Air Force representatives. ANKA first flew in December 2010 since when it has accumulated more than 140 flight hours.

TAI reports that contract negotiations are already underway with SSM for the production of an initial ten ANKA systems for the Air Force.

TAI also rolled out its HURKUS turboprop primary and basic training aircraft in June. The company is also working on the conceptual design of an advanced jet trainer and light fighter under a contract signed with SSM in August of 2011, while TAI’s helicopter group submitted its proposal to SSM for the ‘Indigenous Helicopter’, having been appointed prime contractor for the programme in 2010.

Without doubt, Turkey intends to be a major force in the defence industry and is making the investments needed to make desire into reality.

Peter Donaldson/Miltech

Otokar excites again with Tulpar IFV

Tulpar IFV from Otokar as shown in the IDEF 2013 international defense fair in Istanbul.

Turkey’s vehicle manufacturing powerhouse Otokar has unveiled a new 35 ton armored infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) at the IDEF 2013 international defense industry fair.

Appropriately named ‘Tulpar’ after the Turkic mythological horse with wings that protects warriors in battle, the vehicle is operated by a crew of three (driver, gunner and commander) and can transport a squad of nine fully equipped soldiers to the front lines while providing fire support to other units. A front located 810HP diesel engine and automatic transmission allow for a maximum speed of 70km/h and a range of 340 km.

Tulpar is armed with the Mizrak turret assembly featuring a 30mm dual-fed automatic main gun and 7.62mm coaxial secondary gun, all wired to a state-of-the-art fire control system (FCS) provided by Aselsan. All the guns are remotely controlled and can land their shots on target with high precision courtesy of an array of 8 high-tech cameras with night vision/infrared assist, zoom, laser range finder and target designator, also giving Tulpar 360 degree situational awareness day and night, under all weather conditions.

Tulpar’s modular armor allows for different levels of protection depending on configuration, quick swap of any damaged components during maintenance and provides protection against up-to 25mm armor piercing projectiles, a best-in-class in this category of vehicles. Furthermore, an arc shaped, enforced composite structure underneath the hull allows Tulpar to survive mine blasts with up to 10kg of TNT. Tulpar comes equipped with an automatic fire suppression system, an APU and provides full NBC protection to its occupants.

Designed with the needs of 21st century land warfare, Tulpar is fully network-centric. Standard systems include command and control computer, software defined digital radios, satellite communications, FCS and laser threat warning sensors. Otokar is considering the integration of the L-UMTAS long-range antitank missiles as a future upgrade option for the TSK and export customers.

 

US firms seek Turkish defense contracts, partners

A mission of US defense and aerospace industry firms, which include Bell, Boeing and Sikorsky, will visit Istanbul and Ankara to seek local partners. The US commerce undersecretary will lead the mission.

A large business mission of U.S.-based defense and aerospace companies, including world giants such as Bell Helicopter, Boeing, General Electric and Sikorsky, will arrive in Turkey on Dec. 3 to seek local contracts and partnerships, according to a written statement by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. U.S. Commerce Undersecretary Francisco J. Sanchez will lead the trade mission of 19 American firms, the statement said.

“Turkey is a priority market for the U.S. Department of Commerce – and the only one in Europe. More and more American firms are discovering the Turkish market and seeking partners in this growing economy. I look forward to returning to Turkey with leading U.S. defense and aerospace companies to facilitate partnerships with Turkish firms,” Sanchez said.
The trade mission will visit Ankara from Dec. 3 to Dec. 5 before going to Istanbul on Dec. 6 for two days.

“The mission will identify opportunities for U.S.-Turkish business partnerships and offer trade financing to qualified firms. This business development effort is part of ongoing efforts to increase bilateral trade and investment between the United States and Turkey, under the aegis of the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation,” the statement said.

Turkish sector companies are asked to request face-to-face introductions with U.S. companies on the mission.

U.S. companies won two contracts in the past year and are viewed as front-runners in two others. In April 2011, Sikorsky Aircraft defeated Italy’s AgustaWestland in a competition to lead the co-production of more than 100 T-70 utility helicopters, a Turkish version of the Black Hawk International. In January 2012, Turkey’s top procurement body picked Bell Helicopter Textron for the country’s light police helicopters.

The U.S. is among the strongest bidders for Turkey’s estimated $4 billion Long-Range Air and Missile Defense Systems program.

‘Vibrat’ ties

“Since President [Barack] Obama’s visit to Turkey in 2009, we are adding to our vibrant political and defense relationships through increased bilateral trade and investment,” U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone noted in the press release.

“In 2011 we set a new record with nearly $20 billion in U.S.-Turkish trade. This year, we saw the first visit of a U.S. secretary of commerce to Turkey in 14 years and the first visit ever by a U.S. trade representative. Despite regional tensions, our trade and investment relationship is stronger than ever, building on Turkey’s economic success. In this way, we are fulfilling President Obama’s call to ‘renew the alliance between our nations and the friendship between our peoples.’”

The mission is organized the U.S. Mission’s Commercial Service in partnership with the Undersecretariat of the Defense Industry, Ankara Industry Chamber, Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB), American Business Forum in Turkey and the Turkish Businessmen’s Association.

Three Turks wounded as Syrian jets bomb border

Reuters phoro

One Turkish soldier and two civilians were wounded today during clashes at the Syrian border, daily Hurriyet reported.

A Syrian fighter jet today bombed an area near the Turkish border, causing several casualties, officials and witnesses said, The Associated Press reported.

An Associated Press video journalist saw the plane bomb an area around the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, some 10 meters from the Turkish border.

Last week the rebels overran three security compounds in the town, located in the predominantly Kurdish oil-producing northeastern province of al-Hasaka, wresting control from the regime forces.

An official at the local mayor’s office said Turkish ambulances were carrying several injured Syrians to a hospital, across the border in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. The force of the blast shattered shop windows in Ceylanpinar, in southeastern Turkey, the official said. It was not clear if anyone in Ceylanpinar was injured in the bombing.

The fighting in Ras al-Ayn touched off a massive flow of refugees two days ago, and more refugees were seen coming after the blast.

Earlier, a Syrian helicopter bombed rebel positions in an area further south of Ras al-Ayn and the rebels could be heard responding with machine guns, the official said.

He said the rebels had besieged a Syrian military unit in the region of Esfar Najar and the helicopter was trying to open up an escape route for the regime forces. It was also seen dropping ammunition and food for the soldiers, the official said. The violence in Syria has killed more than 36,000 people since an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March 2011. Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting into neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Another 11,000 escaped into Turkey on Friday following the surge of fighting at Ras al-Ayn.

Turkey to work on first ICBM

The Turkish Armed Forces have begun working on the nation’s first project to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), broadcaster NTV reported on its website yesterday.

A decision to launch the project was made in a July 17 meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Board, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan and Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel. Erdoðan had previously requested that the military develop missiles with a 2,500-kilometer range.

The board decided to form a satellite launch center that would have a two-fold effect on Turkey’s aerospace and military endeavors. First, the center will enable Turkey to place its own satellites in orbit, and second, the center will allow the Turkish military to launch missiles that can navigate outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Attaining an ICBM launch capability is reportedly the chief aim of the satellite launch center.

The Turkish Defense Ministry, the Defense Industry Undersecretariat and the Scientific and Research Council of Turkey (TÜBÝTAK), have been jointly working on the project for some time.

The report said Ankara could cooperate with an undisclosed Eastern European country to develop the satellite launch center.

The ICBM project, meanwhile, has sought to improve on the SOM cruise missile developed by TÜBÝTAK. The SOM cruise missile has a current range of 300 kilometers. The range would first be increased to 1,500 and later to 2,500 kilometers within the project, according to the report.

The report did not elaborate on whether the SOM’s planned 2,500-kilometer range would be increased even further or whether its increased range would be utilized to develop an ICBM separately, as missiles with ranges under 5,500 kilometers are not considered “intercontinental.”

The countries known to currently have ICBMs in their military arsenal are Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and India.

Turkey hits targets inside Syria after border deaths

Turkish artillery has fired on targets in Syria after shells from across the border killed five Turkish nationals.

A woman and three children were among the dead when the shells, apparently fired by Syrian government forces, hit Turkey’s border town of Akcakale.

Ankara’s response marks the first time it has fired into Syria during the 18-month-long unrest there.

Turkey also asked the UN Security Council to take “necessary action” to stop Syrian “aggression”.

The request was made by Turkish envoy to the UN, Ertugrul Apakan, in a letter to the current president of the 15-member Council, Guatemalan ambassador Gert Rosenthal.

Meanwhile, Nato envoys held an urgent meeting in Brussels at the request of Turkey, who is a member of the military alliance.

The bloc issued a statement saying it “continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law”.

The Nato ambassadors also expressed appreciation for Turkey’s restraint in its response, the BBC’s defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt reports.

At the same time, the government in Ankara is expected to ask the parliament on Thursday to authorise cross-border military operations in Syria, Turkish media report.

The Turkish armed forces have in the past moved into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish militants who had bases there.

‘Abominable attack’

Turkey’s territory has been hit by fire from Syria on several occasions since the uprising against Mr Assad began, but Wednesday’s incident was the most serious.

In a statement, the office of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Our armed forces in the border region responded immediately to this abominable attack in line with their rules of engagement.”

Targets were struck through artillery fire against places in Syria identified by radar.

“Turkey will never leave unanswered such kinds of provocation by the Syrian regime against our national security,” the statement said.

Syria said it was looking into the origin of the cross-border shelling that hit Akcakale.

Information Minister Omran Zoabi added: “Syria offers its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to our friends the Turkish people.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu contacted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the incident.

Mr Ban urged Damascus to respect the territorial sovereignty of its neighbours, saying the cross-border incident “demonstrated how Syria’s conflict is threatening not only the security of the Syrian people but increasingly causing harm to its neighbours”.

Mr Rasmussen told Turkey’s foreign minister that he strongly condemned the incident, a Nato spokeswoman said, and continued to follow developments in the region “closely and with great concern”.

Mr Rasmussen has repeatedly said that Nato has no intention of intervening in Syria but stands ready to defend Turkey if necessary.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across their border… and regretful of the loss of life on the Turkish side.”

Akcakale has been fired on several times over the past few weeks.

The BBC’s Jim Muir says Syrian government forces are attempting to cut rebel supply routes by winning back the border crossing at Tall al-Abyad which the rebels seized last month.

Residents have been advised to stay away from the border, and more than 100 schools have been closed in the region because of the violence in neighbouring Syria.

Panic

Turkey’s state-owned Anatolia news agency reported that angry townspeople had marched to the mayor’s office to protest about the deaths on Wednesday.

Town mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan said: “There is anger in our community against Syria,” adding that stray bullets and shells had panicked residents over the past 10 days.

Wednesday’s attack is believed to be only the second time that people have died as a result of violence spilling over the border from Syria into Turkey.

Two Syrian nationals were killed on Turkish soil in April by stray bullets fired from Syria.

In Syria itself, at least 34 people were killed and dozens wounded in a series of bomb explosions in the centre of Syria’s second city, Aleppo, on Wednesday.

The attacks levelled buildings in the city’s main square. A military officers’ club and a hotel being used by the military bore the brunt of the blasts, some of which were carried out by suicide car bombers.

BBC

Free Syrian Army HQ Relocated to Syria

After reports of several Free Syrian Army commencements on the field, alongside an ever increasing death toll of civilians being slaughtered by the Assad regime, the Free Syrian Army has announced that it will be moving its headquarters from Turkey to what it defines as “liberated areas” within Syria.

In a video posted on YouTube, a leading figure of the FSA, the defected General Riad al-Asad announced that this move has been undertaken to “unite all rebel groups” and to fight “side by side with all brigades and factions” operating in Syria, until the Assad regime is removed. The FSA, a structure controlling the independent brigades and groups made up of defectors from the Syrian Armed Forces, aims to achieve a greater coordination with such a move and focus on exerting pressure to the heart of the regime in Damascus.

USAK researcher and Middle East specialist Ali Hussein Bakeer commented on the developments characterizing the FSA’s move as a “progress” and adding that this was a “necessary step” in the current conjuncture. He also added that the Syrian political opposition currently also residing in Turkey should join the military leaders and relocate inside Syria. According to Bakeer, the political opposition should move to liberated areas and take on a role helping attend the administrative management of these areas. Currently the public services within these liberated areas such as courts or hospitals are being conducted by the FSA. According to the USAK expert, FSA doesn’t have the capability to manage such facilities. Therefore the support of the political opposition could help the FSA concentrate its resources on military activities instead.

With regards to possible consequences for Turkey, the Middle East specialist also indicated that the FSA’s relocation to Syria could help alleviate the political pressure and focus on Turkey. Many Assad supporters have charged Turkey of housing terrorists inside its borders due to Turkey opening its borders to the FSA. This move could help shift the focus off Turkey, Bakeer notes.

By Burc Kostem, JTW

Turkey’s Massive Military Trial Opens Old Wounds

Claims of procedural and evidentiary anomalies in a huge trial of coup plotters raise criticism of the Erdogan administration. Is the Prime Minister trying too hard to bury the military—and Turkish secularism?

It was meant to be a milestone for Turkish democracy. In a trial that ran for 21 months, more than 300 senior military officers — including two ex-generals — were accused of seeking to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s Islamist-rooted government in 2003. Never again would hardline secularist generals — the arbiters of political life for decades by force of coups or behind-the-scenes coercion — be able to act with impunity. The trial — dubbed Sledgehammer — was to represent the end of an era when the top brass believed themselves beyond the reach of the law, justified in their actions because Turks needed protecting from radical Islam and could not know what was best for themselves.

On Friday a judge in a crowded purpose-built courthouse outside Istanbul handed down jail sentences ranging from 13 to twenty years against 325 officers. But instead of writing an epilogue to a divisive era, a nation already bitterly polarized over its future became even further divided.

The defendants –including two former generals and a former admiral–were accused of planning to bomb mosques at prayer time and to shoot down a Greek fighter jet in an attempt to stir public unrest and cause the downfall of Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government, now in its third term in power. But the trial was dogged from the start by allegations of improper conduct, false evidence and apparent anomalies, such as dozens of officers nowhere near an incriminating war games exercise or CDs said to have been recorded in 2002-3 but using Word 2007 software. The defense repeatedly complained that its counter-evidence was not heard and key witnesses were not called to testify. Erdogan, critics charged, used the trial as a pretext to lock away his former opponents.

“I am not convinced by the verdict and I don’t believe it is fair because the court ignored much of the counter-evidence that emerged during the trial,” says Sedat Ergin, columnist at the top-selling Hurriyet daily. “From here on there is a process of appeals that could go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. Far from closing a chapter, the Sledgehammer case has just become an even bigger issue on Turkey‘s plate.”

Sledgehammer was seen by many as the final installment in Erdogan’s long-running campaign to rein in the military–once an archenemy that made little secret of its disdain for him and his pious cohorts. Headscarf-wearing wives of politicians were not allowed to attend official functions. High-ranking commanders would often refuse to shake hands with Erdogan allies. For the Prime Minister, who served a brief prison sentence while mayor of Istanbul for inciting religious hatred, it is a wound that clearly still rankles.

Dethroning the military is a mission that has defined his rule. Re-elected for a second term in 2007 with an almost 50% majority, he used that mandate to launch a series of investigations into officers, lawyers, politicians, journalists and others that exposed several alleged conspiracies against the government. The plots were based on plans to cause upheaval, loss of faith in the government and thus pave the way for a military takeover. A second mammoth trial—this one called Ergenekon–is still ongoing. Some of its defendants have been behind bars for four years pending proceedings.

The allegations against the military are believable to many Turks. Turkey’s generals staged three coups between 1960 and 1980, while a fourth government, the first Islamist-led, was pressured from power in 1997. The country also has a long painful history of unsolved political murders and bomb attacks popularly ascribed to a sinister ‘Deep State’ motivated by nationalistic security concerns.

“Nobody denies that the military was in need of a clean-up,” Pinar Dogan, a Harvard professor and daughter of convicted ex-general Cetin Dogan, told me early on during the trial. “But this was done just to throw as many people as possible behind bars. It shouldn’t have been done in a spirit of political revenge.”

The power struggle between the military and Erdogan is also symbolic of a struggle over what a future Turkey will look like. Strict secularism was inscribed into the majority Muslim country by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Westernizing commander who founded modern Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. Under Erdogan, a devout Muslim, Turkey is changing. He has relaxed curbs on religious expression–such as a ban on headscarves at universities. Turkey now has one of the highest taxes in the world on alcohol and cigarettes. A radical recent change means schools now have to offer religion classes such as “The Life of the Prophet Muhammad.”

“The massive reckoning going on behind the scenes is over what kind of a country Turkey should be,” says Osman Ulagay, a respected journalist and author of Who Will Inherit Turkey? “Broadly speaking, Erdogan’s thesis is that by choosing Western-style modernization, Turkey made a mistake. He sees his government as more in tune with the people’s belief and envisages a wealthy country, more tied to its traditions… that also reclaims a place for Islam on the world stage.”

One final legacy of Turkey’s military-dominated past is its constitution, drawn up after a 1980 coup. It is currently being rewritten by a parliamentary commission and how Erdogan manages that process will be crucial to his democratic track record. He has made little secret of his aspirations to create a stronger office of the President—that he would presumably run for. Critics say that could turn him into a Turkish version of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Turkey’s future will depend to a large extent on whether he can forego his personal political ambitions and create a multi-cultural, inclusive document that enshrines tolerance and democratic rights.

By Pelin Turgut, Time

New Rover Sends Images From Mars

NASA followed up its picture-perfect landing of a plutonium-powered rover Sunday night with a picture of the balletic Mars landing — as well as some well-earned self-congratulation about what the accomplishment says about NASA’s ingenuity.

“There are many out in the community who say NASA has lost its way, that we don’t know how to explore — we’ve lost our moxie,” John M. Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate, said at a post-landing news conference, where beaming members of the landing team, all clad in blue polo shirts, crammed in next to the reporters. “I want you to look around tonight, at those folks with the blue shirts and think about what we’ve achieved.”

That achievement, in the early hours of Monday morning Eastern time, was indeed dramatic: with the eyes of the world watching, the car-size craft called Curiosity was lowered at the end of 25-foot cables from a hovering rocket stage, successfully touching down on a gravelly Martian plain.

For the world of science, it was the second slam-dunk this summer — the first one being the announcement last month that the Higgs boson, a long-sought particle theorized by physicists, had likely been found. But while the focus of high-energy physics world has shifted overseas to CERN, the European laboratory, the United States remains the center of the universe for space, ahead of Russia, Europe and China, and for NASA, it was a chance to parry accusations of being slow, bloated and rudderless.

“If anybody has been harboring doubts about the status of U.S. leadership in space,” John P. Holdren, the president’s science adviser, said at the news conference, “well, there’s a one-ton automobile-size piece of American ingenuity. And it’s sitting on the surface of Mars right now.”

Now that it has reached Mars, Curiosity ushers in a new era of exploration that could turn up evidence that the Red Planet once had the necessary ingredients for life — or might even still harbor life today. Far larger than earlier rovers, Curiosity is packed with the most sophisticated movable laboratory that has ever been sent to another planet. It is to spend at least two years examining rocks within the 96-mile crater it landed in, looking for carbon-based molecules and other evidence that early Mars had conditions friendly for life.

On Monday, NASA released a photograph taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing Curiosity still encased in the descent capsule as it sailed under a parachute 210 miles below.

“You can see the lines on the parachute,” said Sarah Milkovich, a NASA scientist who works with the orbiter camera.

NASA officials were working to give Dr. Holdren a framed print of the photograph to show President Obama.

Only one other country, the Soviet Union, has successfully landed anything on Mars, and that spacecraft, Mars 3 in 1971, fell silent shortly after landing. So far, this rover appears to be healthy.

“There’s a lot ahead of us, but so far we are just ecstatic about the performance of the vehicle,” said Jennifer Trosper, one of the mission managers.As the spacecraft sped toward its destination on Sunday, the pull of Mars’s gravity accelerating it to more than 13,000 miles per hour, officials tried to tamp down concerns that a crash would entirely derail future plans.

“A failure is a setback,” said Doug McCuistion, the Mars exploration program director. “It’s not a disaster.”

The Curiosity landing seemed particularly risky. Engineers chose not to use the tried-and-true systems used in the six previous successful landings, neither the landing legs of the Viking missions in 1976 nor the cocoons of air bags that cushioned the two rovers that NASA placed on Mars in 2004. Those approaches, they said, would not work for a one-ton vehicle.

Instead, for the final landing step, they came up with what they called the sky crane maneuver. The rover would be gently winched to the surface from a hovering rocket stage.

As the drama of the landing unfolded, each step proceeded without flaw. The capsule entered the atmosphere at the appointed time, with thrusters guiding it toward the crater. The parachute deployed. Then the rover and rocket stage dropped away from the parachute and began a powered descent toward the surface, and the sky crane maneuver worked as designed.

“Touchdown confirmed,” Allen Chen, an engineer in the control room here, said at 10:32 p.m. Sunday. “We’re safe on Mars.” The room erupted with cheers, hugs, handshakes and high-fives.

Two minutes later, the first image popped onto video screens — a grainy, 64-pixel-by-64-pixel black-and-white image that showed one of the rover’s wheels and the Martian horizon. A few minutes later, a clearer version appeared, then an image from the other side of the rover.

“That’s the shadow of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars,” Robert Manning, the chief engineer for the project, gushed.

More photos followed. One image showed the rover’s destination, a three-mile-high mound at the center of the crater informally known as Mount Sharp.

NASA also released a series of photographs that the rover snapped as it descended, showing the heat shield falling away and later a plume of dust kicked up by the rocket engines.

Over the first week, Curiosity is to deploy its main antenna, raise a mast containing cameras, a rock-vaporizing laser and other instruments, and take its first panoramic shot of its surroundings. NASA will spend the first weeks checking out Curiosity before embarking on the first drive.

The successful landing helps wash away the mission’s troubled beginnings. Originally it was to cost $1.6 billion and was scheduled to launch in fall 2009, but technical hurdles and cost overruns led NASA to wait more than two years for the next time that Mars and Earth lined up in the proper positions. The project’s cost will now be $2.5 billion.

Charles Elachi, director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates Curiosity and many other planetary missions, said it was well worth the money and compared the night’s exhilaration to an adventure movie.

“This movie cost you less than seven bucks per American citizen, and look at the excitement we got,” Dr. Elachi exulted.

Even at the late hour, NASA’s Web sites collapsed as throngs of people across the Internet tried to look at the new Mars photos.

The New York Times

Greece’s crackdown targets immigrants

Greece plans to  deport 1,600 illegal immigrants following a twin-pronged crackdown by police in  central Athens and along the border with Turkey, a main entry point to the EU  used by people traffickers, a police official said on Monday.

Some 6,000 immigrants were detained over the weekend in the biggest police  operation in the capital for several years, though many were later released, the  same official said.

At the same time about 1,800 police officers were posted to the 200km  Greek-Turkish border marked by the river Evros to join Greek soldiers and the  EU’s Frontex mission patrolling the river bank.

The unprecedented crackdown followed a sharp increase this year in the  numbers of illegal arrivals from Turkey, with an estimated 120 migrants a day  managing to avoid the military patrols. Most illegal entrants head for Athens to  join large communities of African and Asian migrants and asylum seekers hoping  to make their way to northern Europe.

Athens has faced criticism  from EU partners over its handling of illegal immigration because of the  failure to stem the flow of arrivals. It is also accused of foot-dragging over  plans to set up reception centres for illegal immigrants with EU funding.

An official at the public order ministry said the latest measures were  intended to address two issues: an expected surge in illegal immigration as  refugees from the conflict in Syria sought shelter in the EU, and mounting  problems with drugs and crime involving immigrants living in poor conditions in  central Athens.

Nikos Dendias, the public order minister, said: ”The immigration issue is a  ticking bomb in the foundations of our society and state . . . We will handle it  with full respect for human rights and European regulations.”

“Illegal immigrants have been without human rights, living in unhealthy  conditions and conned by smuggling rings into believing they would be able to  find a job and travel within Europe.”

About 8,000 immigrants have applied to leave Greece under a voluntary  repatriation programme arranged by the International Organisation for Migration,  paid for out by EU funds.

Eliamep, an Athens think-tank, estimated last year that more than 450,000  illegal immigrants were living in Greece, amid rising social tension as  unemployment soared among Greeks because of the economic crisis.

The far-right Golden  Dawn party, accused of staging racist attacks in Athens, sometimes in  collusion with the police, entered parliament for the first time this year on an  anti-immigrant platform.

Financial Times