Turkey to place initial order for two F-35s

Chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a critical Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) meeting today finally wrapped up Turkey’s long-awaited decision to place an order for 5th generation stealth F-35s.that will become the new front line fighter of the Turkish Air Force.

The decision was delayed last year with Turkish authorities citing “uncertainty of costs”. Turkey is expected to eventually order between 100 to 120 F-35s, some of which will replace Turkey’s ageing fleet of F-4 and F-16 aircraft.

Turkey hopes to use the F-35s in unison with its indigenous TF-X fighter planned for maiden flight in 2023, country’s centennial as a modern republic.

Continuing to expand Turkey’s spy satellite network was another significant decision from the meeting. Within the framework of this decision, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will continue its design efforts for Gokturk-3, Turkey’s first indigenous SAR satellite, as well as other future satellites in the Gokturk series.

Turkey launched its first high-resolution reconnaissance satellite, Gokturk-2, to space from China’s Jiuquan launch facility in 2012. Construction of a second satellite by Italy’s Telespazio with even higher capabilities, Gokturk-1, is scheduled for launch in late 2014.

Being a radar-based observatory, Gokturk-3 will allow the Turkish Air Force to gather images day and night, without being affected by clouds and adverse weather for the first time.

DIEC has also awarded Selah Makine shipyards new contract negotiations for the construction of two logistics support ships,  Ares shipyards to build an undisclosed number of SEAL insertion boats, and MTA to procure two propulsion systems  for the Turkish Navy’s Ada-class (also known as Milgem) corvettes.

A press release by SSM, Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industrues, following the DIEC meeting also revealed that Turkey is continuing to negotiate with China on its strategic T-LORAMIDS high-altitude missile defence system that has stirred a lot of heat with NATO and Turkey’s Western allies over security and compatibility issues..

China’s HQ-9 had previously beat US, European and Russian contenders in the multi-billion dollar T-LORAMIDS program. For the negotiations to be finalized and finally awarded, China must meet Turkish military requirements by the end of June.

Defence analysts expect China to win the lucrative tender with HQ-9s price point, improved capabilities and China’s willingness to share technology with Turkey.

Turkey reveals plans for Space Command

Ankara, Turkey – Turkish Air Force, country’s top scientific and technological research organization, dubbed TUBITAK and a number of industry participants are collaborating for the development of an integrated command and control center exclusively for Turkey’s upcoming space projects, officials familiar with the program told TR Defence. The new center’s exact location has not yet been disclosed but Ankara, the nation’s capital, is on top of a very short list of candidates.

It will eventually host over 180 personnel around the clock, oversee all of Turkey’s orbital operations and will also act as a mission control center as part of Turkey’s ambitious satellite launcher project spearheaded by missile manufacturer Roketsan. It will operate in conjunction with an existing, smaller operations center.

“The center will be capable of tracking all space objects of Turkish origin, but only be managing government-sponsored satellites and missions,” a TUBITAK press correspondent said.

“We’re consulting with ESA, NASA, CNSA and other international industry partners to build an efficient space infrastructure and make our systems interoperable with theirs as part of Turkey’s wider space strategy,” official added.

Turkey currently operates a number of telecommunications and Earth observation satellites and is hoping to produce its next generation of satellites in Turkey with maximum local contribution.

A high-resolution spy satellite that stirred some heat with Israel last year over Israeli and Western worries that sensitive images might end up in the hands of Islamist terrorists, named Gokturk-1, is scheduled to be launched this year, followed up by an indigenously built SAR satellite planned for orbit in 2018.

Turkey hopes to begin sending its own satellites to space by 2023, its 100th anniversary as a modern republic.

Ukrainian military helicopter shot down in Slaviansk

A Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down near the pro-Russian rebel-controlled eastern town of Slaviansk on Monday, but the pilots survived, the Defence Ministry said.

The helicopter, an Mi-24, which came under fire from a heavy machine gun, crashed into a river. The ministry said in a statement the crew were evacuated to a nearby camp but did not give any detail of their condition.

At least three other helicopters have been shot down by pro-Russian rebels since uprisings began in eastern parts of the country early this year.

 

Terrorists fire on military helicopter

Diyarbakir, Turkey – A Turkish army UH-60 transport helicopter came under terrorist fire on Tuesday in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, security officials said.

Two shots hit the helicopter, which was carrying national high school entrance exam papers, in the Lice district.

Officials said no one was hurt and the helicopter landed safely at a local gendarmerie command. Damage on the helicopter is said to be “only cosmetic”.

Security officers say they have launched an operation to capture the terrorists.

 

Global energy experts set to meet in Turkey

The Turkish energy minister and a senior economist are to deliver speeches at the opening of the Anadolu Agency co-sponsored, 20th International Energy and Environment Fair due to be held in Istanbul on April 24.

The convention, to be held over three days at the Istanbul Expo Center, will be the largest energy and environment fair to be held in Turkey, attracting approximately 16,000 local and foreign participants.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz will open the fair, and International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol will deliver a speech during the opening ceremony.

International energy experts will discuss a variety of issues including renewable energy technologies, developments in the renewable energy market, the operation and maintenance of power plants, nuclear power, natural gas and petroleum and the financing of energy projects and energy law.

The Anadolu Agency’s Deputy Director General Cagatay Culcuoglu will also chair a session entitled, “Nuclear energy and the latest developments in Turkey.”

WP

The New Strategic Reality in the Black Sea

The crisis in Ukraine, which led to annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, had an immediate impact on the strategic situation across the entire Black Sea region. Russia emerged as a clear beneficiary mostly at the expense of Ukraine. The new situation will now have repercussions for other regional actors, in particular Turkey and Romania, and will lead to the increased involvement of the United States. However, Washington will likely prefer to support Romania over Turkey in an attempt to avoid the creation of a potential Russo-Turkic geopolitical duopoly in the region.

Russian gains

The annexation of Crimea has greatly increased Russia’s strategic footprint in the Black Sea region. From a military perspective, the peninsula can serve as an outpost for extending power projection towards southern Ukraine, the Balkans and Turkey.  Now that Moscow’s military presence is no longer constrained by former legal agreements with the Ukrainian side, it can fully utilise the geostrategic potential of Crimea by implementing a broad spectrum of mutually reinforcing instruments.  The Iskander surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missile, for example, with a 400 kilometre operational range, could cover the entire southern part of Ukraine – including important industrial cities like Odessa, Kryvyi Rih and Dnipropetrovsk, a large part of Moldova, the entire Romanian coastline and a significant part of the Turkish Black Sea coast. The surface-to-surface systems can be further complemented by long-range, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles providing a full spectrum of capability to strike ground targets, interdict maritime traffic and impose no-fly zones.

The range of power projection can be further extended by employing air and naval assets. The Russian air force, through newly gained access to ex-Ukrainian air bases in Crimea, now has a broader presence covering almost the entire Black Sea coastline, Transnistria and southern Ukraine comfortably within its operational range. It’s worth stressing that the location of the Crimea peninsula makes it a very attractive place for stationing airborne troops, naval infantry and Spetsnaz (special operations forces) for potential deployment in southern Ukraine. The deployment of troops would be further facilitated in the near future by the acquisition of Mistral amphibious assault ships, of which one is to be allocated to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The annexation of Crimea has also radically improved the capabilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It has now gained unimpeded access to the Sevastopol naval base alongside an entire ex-Ukrainian naval infrastructure on the peninsula.

Before the Crimean crisis, the Black Sea Fleet had two cruisers, one destroyer, two frigates, ten corvettes and one diesel-powered submarine and constituted a major naval power in the region. Its potential was only exceeded by the Turkish Navy which splits its forces between the Black Sea and the Aegean and Mediterranean theatres. The potential of the Black Sea Fleet will be further increased after completion of an ambitious modernisation programme which will add six new frigates, six new submarines, a Mistral amphibious assault ship and several other smaller vessels. Assuming no radical changes to the naval potential of other countries in the region, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will soon equal or be greater than the combined fleets of all the other Black Sea coastal states.

Apart from the increase in its offensive capabilities, Russia will also see its defensive posture strengthen. Crimea offers Russia a strong forward defence point, particularly against potential air and sea incursions into the south-western regions of the Russian Federation. Anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities of Black Sea Fleet complemented by similar land-based systems on the peninsula will together create a strong line of defence ahead of the Russian mainland.

Emerging duopoly?

Consequences of the crisis have been almost entirely negative for Ukraine. Crimea was Ukraine’s window to the Black Sea and home to key naval bases in Sevastopol and Donuzlav Bay, which are now lost.  The Ukrainian navy has, at least temporarily, lost most of its warships during the Crimean crisis and currently has only one vessel capable of full-scale combat operations – the Hetman Sahaydachniy. The loss of naval bases in Crimea leaves Odessa as the primary and only alternative place for the dislocated Ukrainian Navy. However this naval base is potentially well within the operational range of missile systems located in Crimea and due to its geographic location, a Russian blockade would be relatively easy to execute.

The annexation of Crimea has significantly changed the balance of power in the region towards a more duopolistic geopolitical arrangement – between Russian and Turkey. To some extent, this arrangement resembles one from the 18th or 19th century. From the Turkish point-of-view, the immediate impact of the crisis is rather negative since the country has to now face a more powerful and assertive Russian presence in the Black Sea region resulting in the deterioration of Ankara’s relative position versus Moscow. The newly expanded Russian military presence will likely put Turkey in a more defensive position in the Black Sea.

Ankara has often voiced concerns about Russian actions in the region in the recent years. With the annexation of Crimea, however, it avoided challenging Moscow directly and can be seen as a result of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbours” foreign policy. There is also a notable increase in trade and economic relations between both countries along with a significant dependence on Russian energy for Turkey. Both countries also recognise each other’s strength and position in the region and understand that a direct confrontation would have far reaching consequences, potentially destabilising vast areas across the Black Sea, Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia.

The new balance of power also underlines Turkey’s role as the sole local actor capable of potentially challenging Russian expansion in the region. This increases the importance of Ankara on the international stage and elevates it further as an alternative to Moscow for smaller countries. Therefore, the crisis provides Turkey with an opportunity to capitalise on its status of a regional power. However, the extent of that impact will significantly depend on US policy choices and the degree to which Washington will actually decide to support Ankara directly rather than countering Russia by strengthening other actors in the region.

It’s already visible that one of results of the Ukrainian crisis will be an increased US presence in the region. Apart from more frequent naval visits to the Black Sea basin, Washington will likely extend different forms of support to its NATO allies. Despite Turkey being the strongest regional ally, it’s very likely that Bucharest will become a major, if not the main, recipient of increased US support. In general, Romania is likely to firmly establish itself, due to the degradation of Ukraine, as a third power in the region after Russia and Turkey. From the US perspective the country offers several strategic advantages. It’s the least dependent of the coastal states on Russian energy. It was also historically less pro-Russian than many other Balkan countries (e.g. Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece).  In addition the country offers a good access point to several critical areas in South-Eastern Europe as it’s located in the direct vicinity of the Balkans, Ukraine and the Black Sea. Romania’s convenient position can be used as a logistical hub to serve US forces en route to the Middle East or Central Asia. The country already hosts US military personnel, mainly at the Mihail Kogălniceanu air base. All these factors make Romania a good candidate for a buffer to potential future Russian expansion.

Geopolitical shifts

In addition, the US may also have its own strategic interest in favouring Romania over Turkey. On the surface it may appear that Turkey would be the most natural candidate for receiving US support as the most prominent regional power capable of challenging Russian influence. However, further strengthening of Turkey at the expense of other regional countries could lead to the creation of a geopolitical duopoly transforming the region into a quasi-Russo-Turkic condominium. This in turn could significantly reduce influence of external actors thus potentially leading to marginalization of US influence in the area.

Furthermore, Turkey, due to its military and economic strength, could be a more difficult partner for the US. It’s also well possible that Ankara would actually see increased US presence as a factor weakening its regional position and a potential constraint on pursuing own foreign policy objectives.  Bucharest, on the contrary, would not only be less willing and able to challenge US influence, but would rather see it as a factor elevating its position in the region. Thus, extending support to Romania not only creates a buffer against potential further Russian expansion but also helps to maintain a less concentrated balance of power in the region. That in turn would help Washington to maintain a more flexible and unimpeded access to the area.

The chain of events which unfolded due to the Ukrainian crisis has led to a significant change in the strategic situation in the Black Sea region. Turkey has to now face a larger and more assertive Russian presence, which will likely force it to deploy more resources to its northern flank and maintain a defensive posture in the Black Sea. While Russia, after more than 20 years, has managed to restore a significant presence in the area. It is not yet on the level achieved during the times of the Soviet Union, but is closer to its position during the 19th century.

By Mr. Adam Klus

Adam Klus is a PhD student of the Past, Space and Environment in Society Doctoral Programme at the University of Eastern Finland. His research interests include; geopolitics of Eastern Europe, country risk analysis, asymmetric threats, unconventional use of military force, and geopolitically disruptive technologies. He works as an investment professional and has several years of experience from financial companies in London and Helsinki.

Syrian missiles ‘locked-on to Turkish jets’

Syria’s missile systems ‘harassed’ Turkish fighter jets on Monday, the Turkish General Staff has announced in a statement.

The missiles deployed in Syria locked on to Turkish F-16 fighter jets as they were carrying out a routine combat air patrol along the Turkey-Syria border, according to the statement published on the General Staff’s website.

Tensions in the area have remained high since Turkish forces shot down a Syrian warplane for entering its airspace on March 23.

The two countries’ borders extend more than 800km.

WB

Turkey, Moldova to deepen military cooperation

Turkey is interested in continuing an effective partnership with Moldova in the military sector, by identifying beneficial projects to the armies of both countries. Turkish Ambassador to Moldova Mehmet Selim Kartal made a statement to this effect at a working meeting with Defence Minister Valeriu Troenco.

At the meeting, the sides discussed the importance of developing and deepening bilateral cooperation in the military field. The defence minister expressed his gratitude for opportunities provided to National Army staff to train professionally in institutions from Turkey, especially at the Partnership for Peace Training Centre (PfP TC) in Ankara.

“We appreciate the professional training of Moldovan officers and non-commissioned officers instructed at elite military schools in Turkey. After returning from studies, they bring modern standards, performance and projects directed towards the development of the defence institution”, said Minister Troenco.

For his part, Mehmet Selim Kartal also said that Moldova could count on Turkey’s friendship.

The diplomatic relations between Moldova and Turkey were established in 1993. Turkey is among the top ten most important economic partners of Moldova.

Bsanna News

Greek court rejects extradition of terror suspect

The Thessaloniki Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled Hüseyin Fevzi Tekin who was arrested last February will not be extradited to Turkey at least until his political asylum request is concluded.

Tekin, along with Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) members İsmail Akkol, Murat Korkut and Bilgehan Karpat, was arrested in Athens. When captured, he was in possession of a passport issued in the name of Bulgarian national Petrov Petar.

Greek police found a cache of weapons and explosives in his house. The court said that Tekin will remain in detention on charges related to the possession of weapons.

In a related development, Hasan Koşar, a DHKP-C member recently arrested for his involvement in a 2011 bombing in Thessaloniki, was released on bail. Koşar and 14 others, including two other DHKP-C members, were arrested after the explosion that killed one. He was released only to be arrested again as further investigation found he was involved in the attack. The Thessaloniki court ruled for his release as he has been a resident of Greece for over 23 years and “was not expected to flee abroad.”

Last week, the Thessaloniki Court of Appeals rejected an extradition demand for Kadir Kaya, another DHKP-C member, who was jailed last year but freed. The court also decided not to extradite two other DHKP-C members who were captured in a boat carrying arms and explosives from Greece’s Chios island on July 30.

Tekin is a high-ranking official in the DHKP-C who rose to the top after the death of its leader Dursun Karataş in 2008. He was arrested after a series of bombings were carried out in Istanbul’s Fatih district in 1999. After his release on parole, he disappeared. He is accused of commanding the organization from Greece.

Greece has long been a favorite hideaway for terrorists from the DHKP-C and PKK.

Terrorists fleeing Turkey took shelter at refugee camps in Lavrion under the guise of asylum seekers, especially in the 1980s.

The DHKP-C, founded in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist party, was designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Under the name of Dev Sol until 1994, the organization claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile murders, including the assassination of nationalist politician Gün Sazak and former prime minister Nihat Erim in 1980. The group also killed several Turkish intelligence officials. In 1994, it was founded as the DHKP-C after Dev Sol splintered. The group’s terror activities remained relatively minor compared to the PKK, another terrorist organization targeting Turkey.

The DHKP-C attempted to stage a bloody comeback in the last two years by carrying out attacks against the police. In 2012, about ten years after its last known lethal attack in Turkey, the DHKP-C conducted a suicide bombing at a police station in Istanbul, killing a policeman.

It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which killed a Turkish security guard in February 2013. This was followed one month later by rocket attacks against the Ministry of Justice in Ankara and the headquarters of the ruling AK Party. In September 2013, the DHKP-C claimed responsibility for a rocket attack against the headquarters of Turkish police in the capital.

No casualties were reported in all three attacks. The DHKP-C, originally established as a left-wing movement opposed to “fascist regimes in Turkey controlled by the West” targeted U.S. interests, including U.S. military and diplomatic personnel and facilities and NATO personnel and facilities since the 1990s. During the Gulf War in 1991, the organization claimed responsibility for the killing of two U.S. soldiers in Turkey and targeted NATO and U.S. logistical facilities in various attacks.

Following those attacks, Turkey launched a massive crackdown against the group in 1992 and an unknown number of its senior leaders were killed in operations in Istanbul. The terrorist organization restricted its activities in late 1990s, although it made headlines after a series of hunger strikes by its imprisoned members in 1999 that concluded with a violent crackdown by Turkish security forces against the prisoners. The group changed its tactics in the subsequent years, using terminally ill people as suicide bombers.

Daily Sabah

Turkey hails deployment of monitoring mission in Ukraine

Turkey welcomed a decision for Special Monitoring Mission of The Organization for Security and Co- operation in Europe (OSCE) in assisting Ukrainian authorities in the immediate implementation of measures agreed in the Geneva Statement, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated on Friday.

“It is an important step that both Russia and Ukraine have agreed on the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission’s role to de- escalate tension,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday at a joint press conference with his Albanian counterpart Ditmir Bushati in Ankara.

Turkey was ready to take any step needed to contribute to the solution of crisis in Ukraine, the minister said, noting Ankara would support initiatives in this regard.

Davutoglu cited that a Turkish official was also taking part in the OSCE mission.

At the press conference, a cooperation agreement on information technologies was signed between Turkey and Albania.

Albanian foreign minister Bushati said Turkey was a “strategic partner” in regional terms.

“Economic, military, political cooperation is assessed today. Turkey is a strategic partner since it has much influence in the region,” Bushati.