Turkey awaits key counterterrorism weapons

Turkey's T129 attack helicopter during flight tests.

The Turkish military is slated to acquire several weapons systems to use against terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) this year, one senior procurement official said last week.
Italy’s AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) have been collaborating on building the T-129 attack helicopter, a Turkish version of the company’s A129 Mangusta International.

AgustaWestland is scheduled to deliver the first nine of a planned 59 helicopters to the military toward the end of 2012.

Turkish authorities then will assemble the required weapons systems on the platforms, and the nine helicopter gunships are expected to enter service in 2013, the official said.

Separately, the United States is expected to deliver three AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters early this year. The U.S. Congress approved the sale of these three choppers, worth $125 million, toward the end of 2012.

Additionally, TAI, Turkey’s state-owned aerospace powerhouse, is scheduled to deliver to the military three Anka Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles in 2012, to be used for reconnaissance purposes, the official said.

Turkey is already operating nine Israeli-made Heron MALE drones against the PKK. The United States has also deployed another four RQ-1 Predator MALE drones at Turkey’s southern İncirlik airbase to fly over PKK camps in northern Iraq and provide the Turkish military intelligence.

Additionally Turkey has requested to buy four RQ-1 Predator reconnaissance drones and two armed MQ-1 Reapers, but the U.S. has not responded to the request.

In addition to its MALE drone capabilities, the Turkish military operates scores of smaller drones.

Unmanned vehicles

TAI’s efforts to develop and produce the Anka have seen a delay of several years. “Attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles are among the most effective weapons against terrorists, and we will have an abundance of these weapons soon,” said one security official.

The PKK this year intensified terrorist attacks against Turkish military and civilian targets, causing a public outrage.

Separately, the U.S. Boeing is expected to deliver the first of a planned four spy planes to the Turkish Air Force in 2012. The program to manufacture the four Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft is worth more than $1.6 billion and is behind schedule a few years.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee, Turkey’s highest procurement agency, is also expected to select a foreign company in Turkey’s $4 billion long range air and missile defense system program. Among the candidates competing to build an air and missile defense system with Turkish partners are U.S. companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, with their Patriot Air and Missile Defense System; Russian Rosoboronexport’s S-300; Chinese CPMIEC’s (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp.) HQ-9; and European Eurosam’s SAMP/T Aster 30.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee’s members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Procurement Chief Murad Bayar.

Finally, the committee would select a national commercial shipyard which will manufacture the third through the eighth of the Milgem national corvettes. The first two corvettes were built at a military shipyard. The first corvette, the TCG Heybeliada, already has entered service in the Navy, and the second, the TCG Büyükada, has been put to sea for tests.

HDN

Hamas leader visits Turkey

Haniyeh and Erdogan

Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is in Turkey on his first official tour outside the blockaded territory.

His talks with Turkey’s premier come as his host’s relations with Israel deteriorate after last year’s raid on a Turkish aid ship.

Nine activists died in the incident when Israeli comandos boarded the Gaza-bound Turkish vessel to prevent it breaching Israel’s blockade of the strip. Haniyeh’s visit is set to include a meeting with the familes of the dead activists.

Euronews

Iran threatens to target Turkey if attacked by NATO

Iran will target NATO’s missile defense installations in Turkey if the U.S. or Israel attacks the Islamic Republic, a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saturday.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guards’ aerospace division, said the warning is part of a new defense strategy to counter what he described as an increase in threats from the U.S. and Israel.

Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West since the release of a report earlier this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency that said for the first time that Tehran was suspected of conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose was the development of nuclear arms.

The U.S. and its Western allies suspect Iran of trying to produce atomic weapons, and Israel, which views Tehran as an existential threat, has warned of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.

“Should we be threatened, we will target NATO’s missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Hajizadeh as saying.

Tehran says NATO’s early warning radar station in Turkey is meant to protect Israel against Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the Jewish state. Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO’s missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran.

A military installation in the Turkish town of Kurecik, some 435 miles (700 kilometers) west of the Iranian border, has been designated as the radar site, according to Turkish government officials.

Hajizadeh said the United States also plans to install similar stations in Arab states south of Iran. He said increasing threats has made Iran alter its military defense strategy.

“Based on orders from the exalted commander in chief, we will respond to threats with threats,” he was quoted as saying.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is also commander in chief of Iran’s armed forces.

Also Saturday, the chief of Iran’s elite Quds Force said he doesn’t fear assassination and is ready for “martyrdom.” He warned Washington of serious consequences if it does not stop threatening the Islamic Republic.

The comments by Quds Force commander Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani were published in several Iranian newspapers. The Quds Force is the special foreign operations unit of the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, and Soleimani is a key figure in Iran’s military establishment but rarely speaks in public.

“Oh, God, bestow upon me martyrdom in Your path by the hands of enemies … The U.S. must know that when a glass is broken, it becomes sharper,” he told a gathering of militiamen in the southeastern Iranian town of Kerman.

Tensions have increased in recent weeks between Iran and the U.S., with several American neoconservatives urging the Obama administration to use covert action against Iran and kill some of its top officials, including Soleimani.

The force has been accused by the Americans of involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Two men, including an alleged member of Iran’s Quds Force, have been charged in New York federal court in the case.

Iran has dismissed the American claims as a “foolish plot”, saying U.S. officials have offered no proof.

Associated Press

Turkey offers Azerbaijan to join key defence projects

18:40 GMT, October 4, 2011 Baku | Turkey offers Azerbaijan to participate in a number of key projects implemented in the military industrial complex, members of the Turkish military delegation that is currently visiting Baku told APA.

The Turkish side has already made a number of proposals on the participation of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense Industry (MDI) in the projects implemented in the military industrial complex.

Ankara offers Azerbaijan to joint production of of the Altay main battle tank, Atak attack helicopter, large-caliber weapon systems, artillery systems, shipbuilding projects, as well as modern anti-personnel weapon projects.

“Azerbaijan’s participation in these projects is important both in terms of the development of the local military industry and experience. Moreover, Baku will be able to get products meeting NATO standards cheaper. The projects, which will be agreed on, will be realized in Azerbaijan,” the delegation said.

The Ministry of Defense Industry and the Turkish Machine and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKEK) signed a protocol of intent on Azerbaijan’s participation in the project on modern anti-personnel weapons. Further, the MDI and ROKETSAN signed a protocol of intent on the joint production of 107mm and 122mm rockets.

Ankara’s proposals will be presented to Azerbaijani officials by National Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz on October 12. (APA/Rashad Suleymanov)

Turkey’s T-129 attack helicopter prototype P6 maiden flight completes successfully

The first Turkish-built prototype of the T129 attack helicopter during flight tests over the Akinci airfield, Ankara.

The first flight, conducted by Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) test pilots, of the T129 “P6” prototype helicopter has timely and successfully been completed at TAI’s facilities in Akıncı, Ankara, the company said today  

The ATAK Program was initiated with the aim to meet the Attack/Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter requirements of the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLF) by the integration of high-tech avionics equipment, hardware and software being developed ‘in-house’ by Turkey.  

The first flight of the P6 prototype marks an important milestone in the ATAK Program and is the first of three T129 prototypes which are being assembled in Turkey.

The helicopter is based on the Agusta Westland A129 Mongoose which has been the mainstay of the Italian army and has been operational and battle-proven in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The T-129 ATAK is an enhanced version of the Italian-built A129, and its development is now the responsibility of TAI, with AgustaWestland as the primary partner.

 Prior Crash

The original prototype being built in Italy crashed in March 2010 during a test flight, leaving its Italian test pilot and its test engineer needing hospital treatment for minor injuries.

Turkey originally planned to order 51 A129s with 40 options back in 2007 but the following year Turkey undertook to fully build the platform.

Under the agreement, TAI has integrated an indigenous mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cuing systems. TUSAS Engine Industries (TEI) is manufacturing the LHTEC CTS800-4N engines under licence. Under the agreement, Turkey has full marketing and intellectual property rights for the T-129 platform. There are also no restrictions imposed on Turkey for the export or transfer of the platform to third countries other than Italy and the UK.

International coalition of pressure against Syria

By Sami Kohen

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

The meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday constitutes a significant event in the international campaign focused on Syria lately.

It is not a coincidence that as Turkey launches this latest diplomatic attempt, many countries and organizations have also expressed tough criticism of the Assad regime.

The fact that the bloody incidents in Syria have reached the dimensions of a massacre has prompted even those countries which have been silent or cautious up until now to voice their concerns loudly.

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah condemned the incidents in Syria for the first time and called on Assad to end the violence. Like Saudi Arabia, two other Gulf countries, Bahrain and Kuwait, withdrew their ambassadors from Damascus.

Meanwhile, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council issued statements condemning the Assad administration. The chief imam of the al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt came out against Damascus.

It is a significant development that the Arab world for the first time is raising its voice in a chorus against the Assad regime even though some of these countries are lead by authoritarian kings or leaders. The public uprising in Bahrain was crushed by brute force. And besides, with contributions of troops from Saudi Arabia… This is one of the contradictions of the Arab world.

However, this is also a reality that the vice surrounding Syria is tightening and that the Assad regime is gradually becoming isolated.

Nobody says ‘resign’

Including Turkey, an interesting aspect of the attitude of all the countries that are increasing their pressure against Syria is that Assad is still the addressee, and hopes of change are still being pinned on him.

No one from either the West or the East has called on Assad to resign as in the case of Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi. This call had an immediate effect in Egypt. In Libya, the process has not been finalized yet.

In fact, incidents in Syria for example are more tragic than Egypt. But the international community still maintains the wish and hope that the transformation in this country can be made without a change of regime.

The primary reason for this is that Syria’s political structure and the strength of its regime is different than other Arab countries. To tell the truth, Assad is not a person who would obey the word “resign.” He relies on his own army, the Baath party, his intelligence organization and support from Iran.

Because of this and other similar reasons, nobody for now has openly asked Assad to resign. Instead of this, they advise him to withdraw his army from cities and end the firing on the public. The demand from Arab countries (for example King Abdullah) is only this. Western countries – and, of course, Turkey – in addition to this call for Assad to make democratic reforms fast, demand that he come to terms with the opposition and organize free elections.

With or without Assad

Will this change and transformation occur with or without Assad?

At this phase – since it is a weak probability that the regime will be toppled – the option of forcing Assad to change his politics is preferred more.

How will this happen? Again at this phase, the method to be applied should be to keep Damascus under political pressure and to force the administration to come to terms with the opposition.

Signs coming from the region and the West also point to the formation of a “coalition of pressure” against Syria.

Will this be enough to bring Assad to reason? If it is, then it is good for everybody. Otherwise, other options could be considered, such as boycotts or economic sanctions – nobody, presumably, is considering the military option. We hope that it will not come to that point.

*Sami Kohen is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

HDN

New Turkish charter to be a model for region

Turkey’s new constitution will set a model for regional and other countries that seek the “best-ever charter highlighting universal values of democracy, human rights and rule of law,” according to a senior governmental official.

“I believe our new constitution, which will be the newest charter based on universal principles, will make an overwhelming impression on the world. If you make the best (constitution), it will of course draw attention from countries that are seeking the best for them,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Wednesday. Bozdağ, however, said their intention was not to become a sample case for regional countries whose citizens have revolted for more democratic regimes.

Almost all political parties, civil society organizations as well as universities agree on the need to rewrite the current charter, which was made by the military junta in 1982, two years after a coup.

“We are not making this constitution to be praised by other countries. That would undermine the whole process. Our motto is to make the best and most modern constitution for our own people by emphasizing democratic requirements, freedoms and human rights,” he said. Recalling that they were also analyzing the constitution of advanced democracies, Bozdağ said, “Those who want to take our new constitution as a sample are free to analyze it, because we believe it’s going to be a model constitution.”

For the deputy prime minister, who will likely play a key role in the constitution-making process, the most important goal is consensus among the political parties as well as civil society and universities. “I hope Turkey will achieve its new constitution with the broadest consensus possible, based on not minimum common points but on maximum common points,” he said.

Bozdağ said he believes there would be a few articles that would cause a debate between the political parties represented in Parliament. “We are ready to discuss everything at the table. Prejudices or pre-conditions would hurt the process, thus we call on all parties to come to the table without conditions,” he said. One of the potential points of discussion in the making of the constitution is the removal of the first three articles, which shape the nature of the republic. Pro-Kurdish politicians have expressed their intention to ask for the three articles to be removed and replaced with items that highlight the status of the Turkish citizens with Kurdish descent. Bozdağ said his party prefers for these articles to remain but said, “We are ready to discuss any proposal regarding these items.”

‘Doves not hawks’

Another important point Bozdağ made was on the composition of the parliamentary commission that will be set after Oct. 1, which will be the main body to draft the charter. “It’s extremely important who the parties nominate for this commission. It would be very useful if the parties would send reconciliatory personalities, figures who are capable of compromise. They would ease the working conditions of the commission and shorten the length of work,” he said.

At the same time, Bozdağ added, the members of this commission should also be able to convince their own party fellows and influence public opinion. “It’s going to be a three-way work.”

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek is expected to call on parties represented at the Parliament to nominate two people to carry out constitutional work after Oct.1.

Bozdağ also talked about the preparations of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, for the new charter. “We have to do our homework before sitting at the table. All parties should do it in order to be fully ready for the process,” he said.

They are writing a text indicating the framework of the AKP’s principles that will be sought in the new constitution, Bozdağ said. “For example, we will on the one hand emphasize universal human rights and democratic values and on the other hand we will also seek way to assure the implementation of these rights, unlike the current charter which obstructs accomplishment of the rights.”

The new constitution is an order to us from the people who voted for parties on June 12 elections, Bozdağ said. “That’s why this Parliament has a unique mission to write the new constitution.”

HDN

Turkey to raise arms expenses to historic high

By Umit Enginsoy

FNSS secured a $600 million contract with Malaysia this year to sell its 8X8 Pars vehicles, the largest export deal in Turkey’s history.

Turkey will spend close to $5 billion for defense procurement this year, the highest in the country’s history, a senior procurement official said on the weekend.

“Some major spending items have just started or are starting now, including those for the purchase of [around 100] Joint Strike Fighter jet aircraft [JFSs], submarines and utility helicopters,” said the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity. “As a result, the arms spending is jumping, approaching $5 billion this year. Thank God, the general economic situation of the country is fine.”

In recent years Turkey has spent just over $4 billion a year on defense procurement.

Turkey’s ambitious military modernization program calls for the acquisition of the most sophisticated weaponry for the Land Forces, the Navy and the Air Force. In addition, the procurement office has made local acquisition a priority in meeting the military’s equipment demands.

Two large-scale programs are expected to begin this year; the first is Turkey’s national long-range air- and missile-defense project for which U.S., European, Russian and Chinese companies are vying to be selected as the main contractor. Turkey’s selection for the multi-billion-dollar contract is expected late this year or early next year.

Second, Turkey is preparing to soon select a Landing Platform Dock, which resembles a helicopter carrier and can carry a battalion-sized force of more than 1,000 troops overseas. Three Turkish shipyards and their foreign partners are eyeing the contract, which will be worth between $500 million and $1 billion. Turkey’s decision is expected next summer.

“There’s enough reason to think that the defense procurement budget will continue to increase gradually over the next few years to reach another saturation point,” the procurement official said.

Part of the rise in Turkey’s arms procurement budget is expected to be compensated by a parallel increase in the local defense industry’s export capabilities. The Turkish defense industry this year is expecting to garner between $1 billion and $1.5 billion from exports of defense-related equipment.

The largest sector in the Turkish defense industry’s exports business is armored vehicle makers. Among these companies, FNSS secured a $600 million contract with Malaysia this year to sell its 8X8 Pars vehicles, the largest export deal in Turkey’s history.

Also, under a new measure adopted by Turkey’s defense procurement agency, Ankara is slated to retain at least 70 percent of the money it spends for defense purchases from other countries. For past contracts, this figure was 50 percent.

In a directive released late April, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries said foreign defense companies doing business with Turkey should agree that 70 percent of the contract’s value be returned through local industry content and offsets.

In other words, if a foreign company signs a defense contract worth $100 million with Turkey, it will agree to return $70 million of this money through its payments to its Turkish partners for their local work on the project or through offsets.

In defense industry contracts, an offset is an industrial compensation. It is a commitment provided by the selling country to the purchasing country to buy defense-related products manufactured by the buying country in return for the main sale.

“Financially speaking, I think we’re doing a good job by keeping the larger part of the contract money in the country, and in the meantime, obtaining knowhow,” said the procurement official.

HDN

Russia draws up tit-for-tat US visa bans: report

Russia has drawn up a list of U.S. officials to be barred from entering the country in response to U.S. visa restrictions imposed on Russian officials over the death of a lawyer, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

If the report by the business daily Kommersant is confirmed, the decision will be the latest of several signs in the past few weeks that the “reset” aimed at improving U.S.-Russian relations under U.S. President Barack Obama is under threat.

“In the case of the United States we will simply put a cross next to the names of those who are not wanted. When a person applies for a visa at a Russian consulate he will be rejected,” a Foreign Ministry source told Kommersant.

Reuters could not immediately reach the Foreign Ministry for comment but Interfax news agency quoted a ministry source as saying Russia was still working on its response.

“There could be lists of Americans barred from entering Russia, but the issue is still being worked on,” the source told Interfax.

The U.S. State Department said last month it had placed visa restrictions on Russian officials accused of involvement in the death of hedge fund lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison as he awaited trial on tax evasion and fraud charges in 2009.

The Kremlin’s human rights council said the 37-year-old lawyer, who represented Hermitage Capital equity fund, was possibly beaten to death. His colleagues say the charges were fabricated by police investigators he had accused of cheating the state through fraudulent tax returns.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said last month the U.S. visa restrictions were unjustified and that it would respond with “adequate measures”, but gave no details.

Reuters

Moscow to NATO: Do not extend missile shield

Russia cautioned the U.S. and its NATO allies Aug. 8 against plans to extend an anti-missile shield into northern European seas.

On a visit to Norway, Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin deplored the lack of any firm guarantees from the alliance that American ships fitted with anti-missile technology would not be deployed in northern waters.

“The very fact of deploying U.S. military missile defense infrastructure in the Northern seas is a real provocation with regard to the process of nuclear disarmament”, said Rogozin at a press conference.

“Why is no one giving guarantees that a U.S. fleet equipped with Aegis interceptor systems won’t be deployed in the Northern seas?” he said.

“I’m sure that if there were no such plans in reality, then I would have been given a very definite negative answer. I didn’t get any firm answer to this question,” he said, adding that Russia had repeatedly asked the U.S. for answers.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed at a NATO summit in November to explore the possibility of cooperating on a system to protect Europe’s population from the threat of ballistic missiles from countries such as Iran.

Fearing that the system would undermine its nuclear deterrent, Moscow has since been demanding a legally binding guarantee that the missile shield would not be aimed at Russia.

Rogozin also called on Norway’s foreign affairs minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, to oppose the plan.

“The countries that are going to join in participating in these plans are going to share the responsibility like the initiators of that project,” he said, warning Europe “not to hide behind the back of the United States.”

Despite the lack of consensus, NATO adopted a plan to forge ahead with the shield in June.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is overseeing continuing talks between NATO defense ministers and Russia, said he was optimistic that a deal on guarantees could be reached in time for the next NATO summit hosted by the United States in May 2012.

The missile shield project will not be completed before 2018, NATO officials estimate.

AFP