Eurocopter to offer Turkish guided missile

Eurocopter plans to test fire Roketsan’s Cirit laser guided missile from an EC635 by the end of the year, it has emerged.

The two companies are working under a MoU signed in 2011 to integrate the Cirit on the aircraft and aim to carry out a flight demonstration in September or October. It has yet to be determined whether this would take place in South Africa or Turkey.

Speaking at the IDEF exhibition, Eurocopter representatives said that following the demonstration, the Cirit would be offered as an optional addition to the EC635/645 weapons package.

Unlike similar weapons developed in the US, which are essentially guidance kits for 2.75 inch unguided rockets, Cirit has been developed to fill the gap between such weapons and larger anti-tank missiles.

Turkish Aerospace Industries is currently working to integrate the Cirit with the full ATAK-standard T-129, designated the T-129B, which will be delivered to the Turkish armed forces from 2014.

Eurocopter also used the exhibition to release details of the increased capabilities of the new EC635 T3/P3.

The upgraded variant features a revamped rotor design, rotor blades that are 10cm longer, an upgraded FADEC software suite, and lateral air inlets that are compatible with inlet barrier filter systems.

The improvements have increased the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft by 30kg to 2,980 kg.

Christian Fanchini, Eurocopter’s military operational marketing manager, explained that the increased payload becomes even more significant in hot and high conditions.

At an altitude of 2,134 m in ISA+20 conditions, the payload increase is 240kg while at altitudes above 914 m in ISA+35 conditions, the increase is 270 kg.

Eurocopter vice president of sales for Europe, Thomas Hein, explained that there was an increasing demand from armed forces around the world for lighter helicopters to be employed in the scout/light attack role.

‘Rather than the heavier transport helicopters, more and more military users are looking to introduce lighter aircraft, such as the [UH-72] Lakota with the US Army. More and more militaries are recognising the benefits of going to a lighter platform and the versatility that provides,’ Hein said.

Shephard Media

TSK set to receive first T-129s

T-129 ATAK Helicopter

The Turkish Land Forces is on the verge of taking delivery of their first T-129 ATAK attack helicopters as the production of the aircraft gathers momentum.

Speaking at the IDEF exhibition in 2013, company representatives stated that the army is expected to take delivery of its first aircraft in the coming weeks.

Four T-129A aircraft are now ready to be formally handed over to the army and will be used to train the initial batch of pilots and maintenance staff. In addition to these first four, three production aircraft are currently undergoing factory acceptance tests.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the programme’s prime contractor that is assembling the aircraft, has increased production to one aircraft per month, which will be the ongoing rate through until deliveries of the 59 aircraft are completed in 2018.

Company representatives also revealed that TAI is looking at future upgrades of the aircraft, potentially including the installation of a millimetre wave radar and development of a manned-unmanned teaming capability.

Two prototypes have been manufactured and will be used to investigate the various upgrade options. In total, the programme has now done more than 2500 flight hours.

The initial deliveries will be of the T-129, which is described as a combat support aircraft and includes rockets, guns and integrated electronic warfare suite.

Development continues on the ATAK standard configuration, designated as the T-29B and includes integration of the Cirit and UMTAS missiles. The first T-129B will start qualification tests in mid-2013 – tests of the IR-guided UMTAS are scheduled to take place in July – and full production of the fully capable version is expected to start in 2014.

With the ATAK now the baseline for all future international sales of the A-129, AgustaWestland and TAI have developed a mechanism for the joint marketing of the aircraft and any specific sales drives.

While TAI took the lead for the recent campaign in South Korea, an effort that saw the T-129 lose out to the AH-64E Apache, which company takes the lead role in the future will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile, with the Italian MoD currently carrying out preliminary studies to determine the future upgrade of its A-129 fleet, an AgustaWestland spokesman said the company’s approach would be to offer new aircraft rather than developing retrofit options to bring the fleet up to T-129B standard.

Shephard Media

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

Diplomacy on Syria tilts toward Moscow

The epicenter of world diplomacy related to solving the Syrian crisis has begun to shift toward Moscow, as multiple diplomatic visitors converge on the Kremlin, beginning with U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The busy schedule of visits can be seen as an extension of last week’s series of meetings between Syrian opposition groups and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Syria peace mediator Annan is expected to land in Moscow today for talks with President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said yesterday that Annan would arrive in Moscow today and meet Putin the following day for talks in which “Russia will underscore its support for the peace plan of Kofi Annan.” “The Russian side proceeds from the premise that this plan is the only viable platform for solving internal Syrian problems,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Annan was also scheduled to meet Lavrov, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travels to China, a country that, along with Russia, has blocked two U.N. Security Council resolutions placing sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

This will be Annan’s second visit to Moscow since he won support from former President Dmitry Medvedev for his initial six-point peace initiative. Lavrov met with the head of the opposition Syrian National Council last week, without any sign of a change in his stance on the possible ways to resolve the 16-month conflict. Russia said last week that it will oppose a new U.N. resolution on Syria that is militarily enforceable.

“History will judge this council,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said July 13, referring to Russia’s veto threat. “Its members must ask themselves whether continuing to allow the al-Assad regime to commit unspeakable violence against its own people is the legacy they want to leave,” she said, after reports of new killings in Tremseh.

Syria, energy, Middle East on the agenda

A day after Putin meets Annan, the Russian president will welcome Erdoğan to discuss the future of Syria, energy issues and the latest developments in the Middle East. Although not on the agenda, the Turkish jet downed on June 22 is also expected to be discussed between the two statesmen, according to diplomatic sources speaking to Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

According to Turkish officials, Erdoğan is expected to ask for any records about the plane that Moscow has. The U.S. and the U.K. have recently handed over the information they had on the Turkish jet. Russia’s foreign minister said June 30 that Russia possesses “objective observation data” concerning the downing of the Turkish jet, and is prepared to present it.

Thanks to a consultation mechanism established by the foreign ministries of both countries, delegations from Turkey and Russia are expected to meet in the fall within the framework of periodic meetings. During their meeting at the G20 summit in Los Cabos last month, the two leaders agreed to meet privately before the fall meetings. In a phone call on June 27, Putin and Erdoğan discussed the situation in Syria and agreed to meet on July 18 in Moscow. Russia, Syria’s main ally, has firmly resisted any form of outside pressure on al-Assad to step aside.

HDN

Past grievances no obstacle to better ties: Armenians

Gyumri, the second-largest city in northwestern Armenia with a population of approximately 160,000 people, is strongly seeking the reopening of the border with Turkey in order to resuscitate the local economy.

Although Armenian politicians in their initial statements about the possibility of normalization of this country’s strained relations with Turkey following the parliamentary elections last Sunday were not upbeat, most people continue to expect to see an improvement in the troubled relationship between the two countries, urging Turkey to open its border with Armenia.

Sagis, a 57-year-old lottery ticket seller in Yerevan, who didn’t want to give his last name like many people here, says his great grandfather came to Armenia from Turkey’s Muş province. He said, “Neighbors should be friends.” Azniv, an 85-year-old retired teacher, told us, “We don’t need enemies, we need friendship.” According to Arman, a 37-year-old businessman who is country director of Fedex in Yerevan, Turkey and Armenia have no choice but to normalize their relations because they are neighbors.

Most Armenians here say the symbolic step in that direction would be for Turkey to open its border with Armenia, which it closed in 1993 following the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani soil, including Nagorno-Karabakh.

Tigren, 33, the co-manager of a Pizza Hut in Yerevan, says: “The border has to be opened. It will be good for us economically.”

The city that wants the border to be reopened most is Gyumri, the second-largest city in Armenia with a population of 160,000. Gyumri’s rundown streets and the visible poverty level of the city are in high contrast with the well-maintained streets of Yerevan.

Alexander Ter Minasiyon, a tourism agency operator in the city, says: “In Gyumri we know the difficulty of living in a border town near a closed border. To get to Kars, which is only 90 kilometers away, we travel 497 kilometers via Georgia. We lose about 10,000 tourists every year,” noting that the city of Kars on the Turkish border also wants the border to be opened. He added that there is a Russian base on the Armenian part of the border facing the Ani ruins [in Kars], and the soldiers don’t allow tourists to even look at the site across the border.

“The financial cost of the border being closed is huge. I don’t agree with the politicians who say we can get along without Turkey. We are losing a lot,” says Levon Barseghyan, who notes that Turkish products cost 30 times what they should cost because they are delivered through Georgia.

Vahan Khachatryan, a businessman who owns Gala TV, a network that broadcasts in the Gyumri region, says he has been looking for a Turkish partner for his soap manufacturing business, noting that the border being closed is causing delays in communication and transportation.

The irony lies in the Russian military units near the border that Gyumri wants to see open. The Russians are protecting the population from a “potential threat” from Turkey. There are also Russian troops and a radar unit inside the town.

Border towns on the other side are also suffering from the situation. “The illicit trade between Turkey and Armenia as of 2011 had reached a volume of around $280 million, according to unofficial figures,” says Noyan Soyak from the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council (TABDC).

“It is possible to say that this figure can increase up to three times in a very short period. Opening the border would ensure that goods from the eastern and southeastern Anatolian regions arrive in Yerevan in four to five hours, shortening the time greatly,” Soyak adds. “We perceive the possibility of the trade volume between Turkey and Armenia reaching $1 billion, including tourism revenue, in three years if the border were open,” he said.

According to the TABDC, the most attractive sectors for Turkish traders and investors are textiles, machinery and the food industry, and, of course, there is great potential for untouched sectors such as transportation, energy and information technologies.

But Vartan Oskanian, a former foreign minister and an important figure in the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), which came in second place in the elections, points to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue as the main obstacle to opening the border. He said: “So our focus should be on Nagorno-Karabakh. If we can solve that problem, then Turkey will open the border.”

Gyumrian artist Aleksey Manukyan says: “The Karabakh issue is costing us dearly. We still have an eastern mentality; we can’t act pragmatically. People don’t voice this openly, but such is the situation.”

One person who can’t wait to see the day the border is opened is Karine Petrosyan, the chief of the Akhurian Train Station. She remembers that the last train from Turkey arrived in Akhurian in April of 1993. “I will retire 10 years from now. I want to see that train again before I retire.” She says the village of Akhurik, after which the station is named, has been affected negatively by the border closing. Many young people left the village. There are also people who say Turkey should first recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans in 1915 as genocide. One such person is Eleonora, a 25-year-old bank clerk. “We can’t possibly normalize our relations before Turkey admits the genocide.” Armen Pahlevenyan, a taxi driver in Gyumri, agrees. “Nothing can be described as normal unless Turkey recognizes the genocide,” said Pahlevenyan, whose great grandfather had to migrate to Gyumri from Kars.

Nana (19), a university student from Gyumri, says once Turkey recognizes the genocide, the past will stop haunting both countries.

Others, yet, prefer to look to the future instead of setting the genocide as a prerequisite for better relations. Smbat, a 55-year-old Armenian who didn’t want to give his second name, also has his roots in Kars. His family was forced to come to Yerevan during the 1915 incidents. “Whatever happened is in the past. We should now open the border. We want a better life for ourselves and for our children. We, as Armenians, aren’t after revenge. We want good neighborly relations. And Turkey should also want this.” Milla Kazanian (21) of Yerevan also agrees, saying: “The past is in the past. Now is the time to look forward. The border should reopen, and our relations should go back to normal.” Felix, an 18-year-old university student, said, “The past shouldn’t be an obstacle to the normalization of ties, but we would like Turkey to recognize the genocide.” On the Turkish side, there is concern that recognition would bring up the issue of reparations.

Galust Sahakyan, leader of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) parliamentary faction, meanwhile, indicated that Armenian leaders had their own red lines that will take priority over any form of reconciliation pact. He said at a meeting with a group of Turkish journalists on Friday, “For us, the Karabakh problem and the genocide issue are more important than a restart in relations with Turkey.”

“It is not enough to admit and then to apologize. Responsibilities such as returning land and paying compensation should also be fulfilled,” says Giro Manoyan, from the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a socialist party that nevertheless is known for its staunch Armenian nationalism. The votes for the party fell from 12 percent in the 2007 elections to 5 percent in this year’s elections.

Gala TV owner Khachatryan says: “What’s important is that Turkey opens the border. When people can freely interact, they will say ‘we are sorry.’ The historical facts of the past should be accepted, and we should all look forward.”

 

SSM releases timetable for major projects

A prototype of T-129 Atak helicopters co-developed by Turkey and Italian AgustaWestland is seen during a test flight. First Atak is planned to be delivered by 2013.

Turkey’s Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry has disclosed a new five-year strategic plan, which finalizes completion dates for key projects including Turkish-made tanks, aircraft, satellites, destroyers, and helicopters, in a bid to lift the country’s defense industry into a higher league.

Altay, the Turkish-made tank project, will be complete by the end of 2015, the plan says. The first Turkish destroyer will be delivered in 2016. Atak, an attack helicopter, and Anka, an unmanned aerial vehicle, will be delivered in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

More than 280 projects have been carried out since 2011, according to the new 2012-2016 strategic plan. The total value of the contracts the undersecretariat signed last year was about $27.3 billion.

Top 10 Within Five Years

The plan envisages Turkey’s defense industry entering the top 10 worldwide within five years. The total turnover target for defense and aerospace industry exports for 2016 is $2 billion, out of an overall industry turnover of $8 billion, according to the plan.

Turkey will establish liaison offices in the Middle East, the Far East, the U.S., the Caucasus-Central Asia, and in Europe (EU-NATO). The undersecretariat will encourage collaboration between prime contractors, sub-industries, and small and medium enterprises, with universities and research institutions improving the technological base.

The Turkish government will support the establishment of testing and certification centers that meet international standards, in order to meet non-military and non-public sector demands. A land vehicle test center, a high-speed wind tunnel, an aerial vehicle flight test field, a missile systems test field, a satellite assembly center, and an integration and testing center will be among these facilities, according to the strategic plan.

Arms Projects Timetable

The strategic defense plan has laid out dates for the deadlines to manufacture the first domestically produced prototypes in the local defense industry.

  • A radar observation satellite will be ready by 2016.
  • The third-generation of the main battle tank, Altay, will be manufactured by the end of 2015.
  • The first destroyer will be delivered to the Turkish Navy by the end of 2016. Studies regarding development of a submarine will be completed by 2015.
  • Atak, a national attack helicopter, will be delivered by 2013. An all-purpose helicopter will be delivered by the end of 2016.
  • The mass production of a national infantry rifle starts in July.
  • Hürkuş, a training aircraft designed by TUSAŞ, and Anka, an unmanned aerial vehicle, will be delivered to the Turkish Air Force by the end of 2015 and 2014 respectively. And a jet motor prototype will be ready by 2016.
  • Long-range and medium-range anti-tank rocket systems will be in the inventory of the Turkish army by the end of 2012 and 2013 respectively.
  • Semi Active Laser Guided Missile, CIRIT, will be mass produced and integrated to ATAKs by the end of 2013.
  • Low and medium altitude air defense systems will be designed by the end of 2016.

Israel bags $1.6 billion weapons deal with Azerbaijan

 

IAI Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Israeli military officials say the Tel Aviv regime plans to sign a major arms deal worth USD 1.6 billion with Azerbaijan.

The officials said on Sunday Israel Aerospace Industries will sell “drones, anti-aircraft and missile defense systems worth USD 1.6 billion” to Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, Israeli media said Angolan Finance Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes has traveled to Israel to sign a military agreement.

Reports say the Israeli-Angolan deal is worth about USD 1 billion.

The latest report on the Israeli military agreements comes a couple of days after Israeli officials said on February 16 the Tel Aviv regime had reached a “USD-one-billion preliminary” agreement with Italy to buy 30 Italian military training jets.

PressTV

 

French army change route after Turkish ban

French state aircraft and warships are no longer using Turkish airspace and territorial waters after permission requests in three different cases were rejected by the Turkish government, France’s top diplomat in Ankara said, amid the ongoing spat over a French law penalizing the denial of Armenian genocide.

“Our requests [for an aircraft and two warships] have been rejected, so we are no longer issuing such requests. We are using alternative routes,” France’s Ambassador to Turkey Laurent Bili told the private news channel CNN Türk in an interview.

Bili said the first rejection was to a request for a French military aircraft that wanted to use Turkish airspace on its way to France from Afghanistan. Similarly, two French warships were not allowed to enter Turkish territorial waters recently. Turkey’s move against the French military was part of sanctions imposed against France after the adoption of the law at French Parliament late December last year.

Though enough numbers of lawmakers and senators were collected to take the law to the Constitutional Council for possible annulment, Bili’s words revealed the process was not an easy one.
“There was such an atmosphere [in Ankara] that necessitated my return to France,” Bili said, adding that the Turkish reaction against the move was a surprise for many French people but did not affect Turkey’s image in the country. “France attaches great importance to its relationship with Turkey. We need to be calm. The law is not aimed against Turkey […] The number of Armenians living in France is 10 times more than the number of Armenians in Turkey. They have become a part of French history. I understand how sensitive issues are concerning ancestors, but cutting off ties is not a good idea.”

The French Constitutional Council must conclude its study on the law by Feb. 29 if the government does not demand the speeding up of the process and give its verdict in eight days. If it does not embrace the law, the council will either fully reject the law or will demand a partial amendment. In both cases, the legislative process will have to start from scratch.

HDN

France backpedals on Armenian ‘genocide’

Sarkozy

French lawmakers appealed to their country’s highest court yesterday (31 January) to overturn a law that makes it illegal to deny that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago was genocide.

The move raises the possibility that the law, which sparked an angry reaction in Turkey, will be dismissed as unconstitutional.

The legislation, which received final parliamentary approval on 23 January, prompted Ankara to cancel all economic, political and military meetings with Paris.

More than 130 French lawmakers from both houses of parliament and across the political divide, who had originally voted against the bill, appealed to the Constitutional Council.

The court has one month to make its decision.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who branded the legislation “discriminatory and racist,” thanked the lawmakers who opposed it.

“On behalf of my country, I am declaring our heartfelt gratitude to the senators and deputies who gave their signatures,” he said. “I believe they have done what needed to be done.”

The lawmakers argued in their appeal that the event was still the subject of historical contention, and therefore the legislation infringed on the freedoms of historians, analysts and others to debate it, ultimately violating the right to free speech.

They insisted their move did not aim to deny “the suffering of our compatriots of Armenian origin and of all Armenians across the world.”

‘Patience’

Last week, Erdoğan said Turkey was in a “period of patience” as it considered what measures to take.

As a member of NATO and the World Trade Organisation, Turkey may be limited in its response by its international obligations. However, newspapers have listed possible measures that Ankara might take against France.

These included recalling its ambassador in Paris and expelling the French ambassador in Ankara, thus reducing diplomatic ties to charge d’affaires level, and closing Turkish airspace and waters to French military aircraft and vessels.

President Nicolas Sarkozy must still ratify the law, a move now on hold pending the court’s decision.

Mostly Muslim Turkey accuses Sarkozy of trying to win the votes of 500,000 ethnic Armenians in France in the two-round presidential vote on April 22 and May 6. France’s Socialist Party, which has a majority in the upper house, and Sarkozy’s UMP party, which put forward the bill, supported the legislation.

AFP agency quoted Sarkozy as saying that the move of the French parliamentarians to seize the Constitutional Council was not in his favour ahead of the April-May election.

“French companies in Turkey … wanted the Constitutional Council to be involved because it’s the best solution to calm the Turks,” said Dorothée Schmid, head of the Turkish program at the French Foreign Relations Institute in Paris.

“The Turkish government accused the French government of being racist and discriminatory, yet this matter stems from the inability of the Turks to handle the genocide case. Now there is a discussion on it.”

France is Turkey’s fifth biggest export market and sixth biggest supplier of imports of goods and services, and bilateral trade was €10.3 billion in the first 10 months of last year.

EurActiv.com

Turkey to increase ballistic missiles’ range

Missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers are a realistic target according to Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, head of Turkey’s State Scientific Research Institute. However, analysts remain uncertain as to Turkey’s capacity or need to achieve this goal.

J-600T Yıldırım ballistic missile on an F-600T launching vehicle, based on a MAN 26.372 6x6 truck.

Turkey aims to build ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers within the next two years, Turkish officials have said, but analysts remain uncertain as to whether the country needs, or can even achieve, such a capability.

Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, head of Turkey’s State Scientific Research Institute (TÜBİTAK), recently told reporters that the decision to build the ballistic missiles was made at a recent meeting of the High Board of Technology and in line with a request from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Altınbaşak said TÜBİTAK had already produced and delivered a missile with a range of 500 kilometers to the Turkish military and added that the missile had displayed a mere five-meter deviation from its target in field tests. In the next phase of the program this year, TÜBİTAK will first test the 1,500-kilometer missile before heading for the final goal of 2,500 kilometers.

Altınbaşak said building missiles with a range of 2,500-kilometer was a “realistic target for Turkey.” But analysts voiced doubts about Turkey’s ballistic ambitions.

“TÜBİTAK already has the technology to build the 185-kilometer stand-off-munitions (SOM) missiles. It may have reached the 500-kilometer range recently by diminishing the payload or by some other modifications. It is still dubious, however, how the tests for 500 kilometers went unnoticed globally,” a missile technology expert said.

A Middle East political expert said Turkey’s decision to produce cruise and ballistic missiles may mark a change in threat and security design perceptions.

“Why would the Turks need these missiles? Where will they use them? Against which threats? It is also intriguing that Turkey, which seeks a modern air force with deterrent firepower, is going along the path many rogue states with no modern air force capabilities have gone,” the specialist said.

Since 1997, Turkey has been a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which was established in 1987 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States.

The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons, specifically delivery systems that could carry a minimum payload of 500 kilograms a minimum of 300 kilometers.

Experts agree that the MTCR has been successful in helping to slow or stop several ballistic missile programs; Argentina, Egypt and Iraq abandoned their joint Condor II ballistic missile program, while Brazil, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan also shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programs.

Some Eastern European countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, destroyed their own ballistic missiles to – in part – better their chances of joining MTCR.

But there is consensus that the MTCR regime has its limitations. India, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan (all non-members) continue to advance their missile programs. All four countries, with varying degrees of foreign assistance, have deployed medium-range ballistic missiles that can travel more than 1,000 kilometers and are exploring missiles with much greater ranges. Similarly, Iran has supplied missile production items to Syria.

The missile expert said Turkey’s announcement for ballistic missile production may ring alarm bells in some of the countries which produce “the ingredients” for these missiles.
“From now on Turkey may find it increasingly difficult to have access to some of the components it will need to achieve its missile ambitions,” the expert said. “Some countries may think it more appropriate to introduce limitations to the Turkish purchase of some technology.”

 By Umit Enginsoy, HDN