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.
As one of the two most credible contenders for the estimated $4 billion T-Loramids Turkish contract, Eurosam is taking part in the IDEF 2013 exhibition in Istanbul showing on its stand a Launch Module and an Engagement module belonging to the Italian 4th Air Defense Regiment, the Italian unit which is now operational with the consortium Samp/T system.
“We are happy of the strong support to our proposal given byFrance and Italy,” Antonio Perfetti, Eurosam Chairman delcared at the press conference organised on May 8th, “which materialised in the visit to our stand from the Ambassadors of the two countries.” Should Turkey chose the European system, a series of opportunities should arise, that might go well beyond the simple participation of the Turkish industry into the programme. Eurosam does not foresee a simple transfer of technology to Turkey, but looks at the co-development of future upgrades. Full transparency was given to Turkish authorities regarding the three anti-ballistic missile tests conducted until now, both by the consortium and by the current customers of the system.
Turkish companies would eventually provide subsystems to the consortium, and they would become full partners in any other export contract. Eurosam would also transfer simulation capabilities to Turkey, which would allow the nation to fully exploit the system. “The Turkish industry has shown in recent years an extraordinary learning capacity” Perfetti said, “and it possesses a high technical quality.” As for a potential participation of Turkey into the Eurosam consortium the chairman said that the consortium was the result of a MoU between French and Italian governments, and that a solution will have to be found at governmental level.
However a new instrument aimed at protecting intellectual property would be needed. No forecast on a date for the decision was made, “but we are sure that Turkeywill take a decision,” Perfetti said.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Turkey is testing blood samples taken from Syrian casualties brought over the border from fighting in recent days to determine whether they were victims of a chemical weapons attack, local government and health officials said on Wednesday.
The samples were sent to Turkey’s forensic medicine institute after several Syrians with breathing difficulties were brought to a Turkish hospital on Monday in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province along the Syrian border.
“We are taking the necessary precautions as we have received unconfirmed information on the use of chemical weapons,” Reyhanli Mayor Huseyin Sanverdi told Reuters.
“So far I have not received confirmation from medical institutions but there is a possibility that the weapons were used and we have to act with caution in case,” he said.
Sanverdi said the hospital in Reyhanli had taken emergency measures on Monday following the claims but that those had now been lifted. He added that Monday’s patients had been brought from Idlib province in northern Syria.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday said there was evidence that chemical weapons had been used during Syria’s two year conflict, but that it was not yet known how the chemical weapons were used, when they were used and who used them.
Washington has long said it views the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line”, but wary of the false intelligence that was used to justify the 2003 war in Iraq, it has said it wants proof before taking action.
Britain last week confirmed it had “limited but persuasive” information showing chemical weapons use in Syria, including sarin, evidence that the Foreign Office now says is “physiological” – from the bodies of chemical attack victims.
A Foreign Office spokesman said it was likely that Syria, and not the rebels, would be behind any such attack, and Britain added that it was working with the United Nations to harden up evidence of whether chemical weapons had been used.
Fighting in Syria, now entering its third year, has intensified in the last month with government forces attempting to roll back rebel advances. Some 70,000 people have now been killed in the civil war.
Each side has blamed the other for what they both said was a chemical attack in the city of Saraqeb in Idlib on Monday.
A senior Reyhanli health official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Sanverdi’s statement, saying the hospital carried out “emergency plans from time to time”.
One hospital employee, who also declined to be named, described how the hospital had been sealed off into the night on Monday, with specialised emergency medical teams moving in to take over after 13 patients from Idlib were brought in.
“We were given special apparel but it was the emergency team which took care of those patients. Doctors suspected sarin or mustard gas because the patients had breathing difficulties,” the employee said.
Another hospital employee said staff were ordered to stay back while the team intervened.
“This cannot be without reason,” the second employee said.
Wassim Taha, a Syrian doctor from the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations which runs hospitals for the Syrian opposition, said the patients were washed at the border because doctors feared they had come into contact with a form of gas.
A second Syrian doctor, Ubada Alabrash, who helps treat Syrian patients at Reyhanli hospital, said they also suspected the patients had been victims of a chemical attack because those escorting them to the border had exhibited similar symptoms.
Alabrash said blood samples from the patients had been sent for tests but that they had not been given the results.
“I don’t think the Turkish government would hide the results from us, but I understand they must be careful with it because NATO and other international bodies are also involved in this issue,” he said.
“Now we are waiting for the blood test results from Ankara, we have asked to be informed. We can only say after the test results if chemical weapons were used or not.”
Turkey said on Friday any use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would “take the crisis to another level”, but remained cautious about any foreign military intervention in the conflict on its border.
The White House said on Thursday Assad’s government had probably used chemical arms on a small scale, but that President Barack Obama needed proof before he would act.
“We have been hearing allegations of the use of chemical weapons for quite some time now and these new findings take things to another level. They are very alarming,” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu said.
“Since the very first reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria emerged we have been asking for a thorough investigation by the United Nations to substantiate these reports. However, the Syrian regime has not allowed this.”
Syria, which has so far denied access to U.N. investigators because of a dispute over their remit, denies firing chemical weapons and accuses anti-Assad rebels of using them.
“This has been done by organisations, including al Qaeda, which threatened to use chemical weapons against Syria. They have carried out their threat near Aleppo. There were victims,” Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in Moscow.
“The Syrian army does not have chemical weapons,” Interfax news agency quoted Zoubi as saying.
A once-fervent advocate of foreign intervention in Syria, Turkey has grown increasingly frustrated with the fractured opposition to Assad and with international disunity.
Asked whether Turkey would allow foreign military action in Syria from its soil, Gumrukcu said the facts about chemical weapons usage needed to be substantiated first.
“Let’s not jump to that right now, let’s have a thorough investigation,” he said, adding any response if the claims were verified would need to be discussed among the “Friends of Syria” grouping of the opposition’s Western, Arab and other allies.
The U.S. disclosure created a quandary for Obama, who has set the use of chemical weapons as a “red line” Assad must not cross. It triggered calls from some hawkish Washington lawmakers for a U.S. military response, which the president has resisted.
Ankara had been pushing for a foreign-protected “safe zone” inside Syria that could serve as a refuge for civilians caught up in the chaos and ease the burden on refugee camps in Turkey, now housing more than a quarter of a million people.
But it has been less vocal in recent months and officials were privately cautious about the latest U.S. disclosure.
“(The) statements are very vague and they themselves do not seem to be very confident of their arguments,” one source close to the Turkish government said.
“Turkey has been voicing some concerns to that end as well but without proof, I don’t think any further steps than the current level of involvement would be made,” the source said.
“Intervention is very risky.”
The European Union also responded cautiously, saying it hoped the United Nations would be able to send its investigating mission to Syria to check for chemical weapons use.
“We are still monitoring this along with our international partners to see what has really happened because it doesn’t seem entirely clear at this point in time,” said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
“We’ve seen that the regime in Syria doesn’t seem to have much respect for human life, but we can’t be definitive on this until we see definitive evidence,” Mann said.
After reports of several Free Syrian Army commencements on the field, alongside an ever increasing death toll of civilians being slaughtered by the Assad regime, the Free Syrian Army has announced that it will be moving its headquarters from Turkey to what it defines as “liberated areas” within Syria.
In a video posted on YouTube, a leading figure of the FSA, the defected General Riad al-Asad announced that this move has been undertaken to “unite all rebel groups” and to fight “side by side with all brigades and factions” operating in Syria, until the Assad regime is removed. The FSA, a structure controlling the independent brigades and groups made up of defectors from the Syrian Armed Forces, aims to achieve a greater coordination with such a move and focus on exerting pressure to the heart of the regime in Damascus.
USAK researcher and Middle East specialist Ali Hussein Bakeer commented on the developments characterizing the FSA’s move as a “progress” and adding that this was a “necessary step” in the current conjuncture. He also added that the Syrian political opposition currently also residing in Turkey should join the military leaders and relocate inside Syria. According to Bakeer, the political opposition should move to liberated areas and take on a role helping attend the administrative management of these areas. Currently the public services within these liberated areas such as courts or hospitals are being conducted by the FSA. According to the USAK expert, FSA doesn’t have the capability to manage such facilities. Therefore the support of the political opposition could help the FSA concentrate its resources on military activities instead.
With regards to possible consequences for Turkey, the Middle East specialist also indicated that the FSA’s relocation to Syria could help alleviate the political pressure and focus on Turkey. Many Assad supporters have charged Turkey of housing terrorists inside its borders due to Turkey opening its borders to the FSA. This move could help shift the focus off Turkey, Bakeer notes.
The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a “disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands — hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area.” When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad regime.
The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle. However, while the security of these weapons is a legitimate concern, it is important to recognize that there are a number of technical and practical considerations that will limit the impact of these weapons even if a militant group were able to obtain them.
Militant Use of Chemical Weapons
Militant groups have long had a fascination with chemical weapons. One of the largest non-state chemical and biological weapons programs in history belonged to the Aum Shinrikyo organization in Japan. The group had large production facilities located in an industrial park that it used to produce thousands of gallons of ineffective biological agents. After the failure of its biological program, it shifted its focus to chemical weapons production and conducted a number of attacks using chemical agents such as hydrogen cyanide gas, phosgene and VX and sarin nerve agents.
Jihadists have also demonstrated an interest in chemical weapons. The investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing found that bombmaker Abdul Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) had added sodium cyanide to the large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated in the Trade Center’s basement parking garage. The cyanide was either consumed or so widely scattered by the huge blast that its effects were not noticed at the time of the attack. The presence of the cyanide was only uncovered after investigators found a list of the chemicals ordered by conspirator Nidal Ayyad and debriefed Basit after his arrest.
In his testimony at his 2001 trial for the Millennium Bomb plot, Ahmed Ressam described training he had received at al Qaeda’s Deronta facility in Afghanistan for building a hydrogen cyanide device. Ressam said members of the group had practiced their skills, using the gas to kill a dog that was confined in a small box.
Videos found by U.S. troops after the invasion of Afghanistan supported Ressam’s testimony — as did confiscated al Qaeda training manuals that contained recipes for biological toxins and chemical agents, including hydrogen cyanide gas. The documents recovered in Afghanistan prompted the CIA to publish a report on al Qaeda’s chemical and biological weapons program that created a lot of chatter in late 2004.
There have been other examples as well. In February 2002, Italian authorities arrested several Moroccan men who were found with about 4 kilograms (9 pounds) of potassium ferrocyanide and allegedly were planning to attack the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
In June 2006, Time magazine broke the story of an alleged al Qaeda plot to attack subways in the United States using improvised devices designed to generate hydrogen cyanide gas. The plot was reportedly aborted because the al Qaeda leadership feared it would be ineffective.
In 2007, jihadist militants deployed a series of large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices augmented with chlorine gas against targets in Iraq. However, the explosives in these attacks inflicted far more casualties than the gas. This caused the militants to deem the addition of chlorine to the devices as not worth the effort, and the Iraqi jihadists abandoned their chemical warfare experiment in favor of employing vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices without a chemical kicker.
There have also been several credible reports in Iraq of militants using chemical artillery rounds in improvised explosive device attacks against coalition forces, but those attacks also appear to have been largely ineffective.
Difficult to Employ
Using chemical munitions on the battlefield presents a number of challenges. The first of these is sufficiently concentrating the chemical agent to affect the targeted troops. In order to achieve heavy concentrations of the agent, chemical weapon attacks were usually delivered by a massive artillery bombardment using chemical weapons shells. Soviet military chemical weapons doctrine relied heavily on weapons systems such as batteries of BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, which can be used to deliver a massive amount of ordnance to a targeted area. Additionally, it is very difficult to control the gas cloud created by the massive barrage. There were instances in World War I and in the Iran-Iraq War in which troops were affected by chemical weapon clouds that had been created by their own artillery but had blown back upon them.
Delivering a lethal dose is also a problem in employing chemical weapons in terrorist attacks, as seen by the attacks outlined above. For example, in the March 20, 1995, attack on the Tokyo subway system, Aum Shinrikyo members punctured 11 plastic bags filled with sarin on five different subway trains. Despite the typically very heavy crowds on the trains and in the Tokyo subway stations that morning, the attacks resulted in only 12 deaths — although thousands of other commuters were sickened by the attack, some severely.
The Syrian regime is thought to have mustard gas as well as tabun, sarin and VX nerve agents in its chemical weapons inventory. Mustard gas, a blistering agent, is the least dangerous of these compounds. In World War I, less than 5 percent of the troops who were exposed to mustard gas died. Tabun and sarin tend to be deployed in a volatile liquid form that evaporates to form a gas. Once in gas form, these agents tend to dissipate somewhat quickly. VX, on the other hand, a viscous nerve agent, was developed to persist in an area after it is delivered in order to prevent an enemy force from massing in or passing through that area. While VX is more persistent, it is more difficult to cause a mass casualty attack with it since droplets of the liquid agent must come into contact with the victim, unlike other agents that evaporate to form a large cloud.
But there are other difficulties besides delivering a lethal dose. Because of improvements in security measures and intelligence programs since 9/11, it has proved very difficult for jihadists to conduct attacks in the West, even when their attack plans have included using locally manufactured explosives. There have been numerous cases in which plots have either failed, like the May 2010 Times Square attack involving Faisal Shahzad, or been detected and thwarted, like the September 2009 plot to attack the New York subway system involving Najibullah Zazi.
Because of the improved security, it would be very difficult for jihadists to smuggle chemical agents into the United States or Europe, even if they were able to obtain them. Indeed, as mentioned above, the chemical artillery rounds used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq were employed in that country, not smuggled out of the region.
This means that jihadists not only face the tactical problem of effectively employing the agent in an attack but also the logistical problem of transporting it to the West. This difficulty of transport will increase further as awareness of the threat increases. One way around the logistical problem would be to use the agent against a soft target in the region. Such targets could include hotels, tourist sites, airport arrival lounges or even Western airliners departing from airports with less than optimal security.
Another option for jihadists or Palestinian militants could be to attempt to smuggle the chemical agent into Israel for use in an attack. However, in recent years, increased security measures following past suicide bombing attacks in Israel have caused problems for militant groups smuggling weapons into Israel. The same problems would apply to chemical agents — especially since border security has already been stepped up again due to the increased flow of weapons from Libya to Gaza.
Militants could attempt to solve this logistical challenge by launching a warhead or a barrage of warheads into Israel using rockets, but such militant rocket fire tends to be very inaccurate and, like conventional rocket warheads, these chemical warheads would be unlikely to hit any target of value. Even if a rocket landed in a populated area, it would be unlikely to produce many casualties due to the problem of creating a lethal concentration of the agent — although it would certainly cause a mass panic.
The use of chemical weapons would also undoubtedly spur Israel to retaliate heavily in order to deter additional attacks. This threat of massive retaliation has kept Syria from using chemical weapons against Israel or allowing its militant proxies to use them.
Hezbollah may be the militant organization in the region that could most effectively utilize Syrian chemical munitions. The group possesses a large inventory of artillery rockets, which could be used to deliver the type of barrage attack required for a successful chemical weapon attack. Rumors have been swirling around the region for many months that Libyan rebels sold some chemical munitions to Hezbollah and Hamas. While we have seen confirmed reports that man-portable air-defense systems and other Libyan weapons are being smuggled into Sinai en route to Gaza, there has been no confirmation that chemical rounds are being smuggled out of Libya.
Still, even if Hezbollah were to receive a stockpile of chemical munitions from Syria or Libya, it has a great deal to lose by employing such munitions. First, it would have to face the aforementioned massive retaliation from Israel. While Israel was somewhat constrained in its attacks on Hezbollah’s leadership and infrastructure in the August 2006 war, it is unlikely to be nearly as constrained in responding to a chemical weapon attack on its armed forces or a population center. Because of the way chemical weapons are viewed, the Israelis would be seen internationally as having just cause for massive retaliation. Second, Hezbollah would face severe international repercussions over any such attack. As an organization, Hezbollah has been working for many years to establish itself as a legitimate political party in Lebanon and avoid being labeled as a terrorist organization in Europe and elsewhere. A chemical weapon attack would bring heavy international condemnation and would not be in the group’s best interest at this time.
So, while securing Syrian chemical munitions is an imperative, there are tactical and practical constraints that will prevent militants from creating the type of nightmare scenario discussed in the media, even if some chemical weapons fell into the wrong hands.
Turkey will spend up to $8 billion in defense purchases as its exports will reach $2 billion in 2016, four years from now, according to a major estimation by the procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM).
The present figures are around half of that.
The expectations in the SSM’s updated 2012-2016 strategic program are realistic given the money Turkey would pay for expensive systems – such as the F-35s or the U-214 submarines from Germany – over the next few years, as well as the rapid increase in its exports mainly to Islamic countries, according to one defense analyst.
Turkey is in talks with four key foreign suppliers on a $4 billion Long Range Air and Missile Defense Systems project.
The country’s mainly exports armored vehicles of many sorts, rockets and other ammunition, as well as military electronics like radios, to more than 10 Islamic countries. It also sells aviation equipment as part of offset deals.
Fighter jet program delayed
Separately, Turkey has delayed a program to develop a domestic fighter aircraft for the Air Force nearly two years, the strategic document has revealed. “A conceptual design … for the fighter aircraft will be completed by the end of 2014,” the SSM’s program said.
The defense minister at the time, Vecdi Gönül, announced on Dec. 14, 2010, that Turkey would build a fighter aircraft, to be constructed together with a friendly country or fully by itself, by the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic in 2023.
Gönül told reporters after a meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee that the SSM would start talks with the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the country’s main aerospace company, for a “conceptual design” of a fighter aircraft and a jet trainer to be built after the year 2020.
At the time, Gönül said the TAI would have two years for the conceptual design. He said Turkey’s newly designed fighter aircraft “would be a next-generation type, replacing the [U.S.-made] F-4Es and functioning well with the F-16 and the F-35 … This is effectively a decision for the making of Turkey’s first fighter aircraft.”
However, the new strategic document calls for the completion of the conceptual design by 2014. “The original timetable must be wrong. It’s impossible to complete the conceptual design of a new aircraft in two years. The estimate is more reasonable now,” said one senior procurement official.
Turkey will buy around 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II aircraft built by a team led by the U.S. firm Lockheed Martin, but Gönül said at the time that they were planning to develop the new fighter with a partner other than the United States.
Turkey previously had South Korea in mind, but one South Korean official in Ankara said South Korea was at a more advanced stage than Turkey, and was currently developing its KF-X model with Indonesia. “We can’t say at this point whether it will be with South Korea or not,” Gönül said.
How does a prostitute make an officer reveal military secrets? Rather easily, according to evidence assembled against a group of Turkish officers who allegedly ran a sex-for-secrets ring.
The prostitute “accidentally” drives into the targeted officer’s car, seduces him, secretly films him in the act, and blackmails him. At least 80 people, 60 of them serving officers, have been arrested in connection with the “escort girls” case. This was launched in 2009 after police in the western port city of Izmir were tipped off by an anonymous e-mail. (Because of the highly sensitive nature of the case the prosecution has refused to reveal all of the evidence and a formal indictment is still pending.) Arrest warrants for 50 more officers were issued this month, after the shooting down of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria, on the ground that the honey trap was aimed at army personnel working at radar installations. Nineteen prostitutes have also been arrested pending trial.
The army’s pro-Islamic critics have eagerly seized on the case as further proof of its decadence. At least 362 serving military officers are being held in a separate case called “Ergenekon” on charges of seeking to overthrow the government of the Justice and Development Party (AK). The army, NATO’s second largest, has toppled four governments so far. In 2007 it threatened to do so again when the AK nominated Abdullah Gul as president. The fact that Mrs Gul covers her head was deemed by the generals to pose a threat to Ataturk’s republic. AK refused to budge, Mr Gul was duly elected and the army’s hold has been weakening ever since.
Yet even the generals’ fiercest detractors are beginning to worry that efforts to bring them under civilian control may be degenerating into a vendetta. Western observers agree that, although the army almost certainly contains coup-plotters, overzealous investigators may have doctored some of the evidence against officers and that innocents are being caught in their net. Paradoxically prosecutors have shown little interest in well-documented atrocities committed by the army during its scorched-earth campaign against Kurdish separatist rebels. Ihsan Tezel, a defence lawyer in the “escort girls” affair, insists that the prosecution’s case rests exclusively on the contents of the hard drive of a computer seized from the home of a businessman who is accused of being one of the ringleaders of the gang.
Another ongoing sex-for-secrets case brought against 54 officers in Istanbul has run into trouble. At a recent hearing, a 52-year-old woman named as one of the prostitutes broke down in tears as she produced a medical certificate proving that she was a virgin. And there is no evidence to suggest that the defendants were selling secret documents. The presiding judge has called for all of them to be acquitted. A final verdict is expected by the end of July.
Gareth Jenkins, an expert on the Turkish army, says that the barrage of cases has had a devastating impact on army morale. “How can they function effectively when they live in constant fear of being arrested?” he asks. Amid Turkish threats of retaliation against Syria, the question is growing more pertinent by the day.