Japanese stealth fighter goes airborne

Japan’s first stealth fighter jet successfully took to the skies on Friday as the country joins a select group of world military powers wielding the radar-dodging technology.

Technological super power Japan, despite strict constitutional constraints on the use of military force imposed after World War II, has one of the world’s most advanced defense forces and the development of the stealth fighter comes as it faces new security challenges in the form of China’s expanding force posture.

The domestically developed X-2 jet took off from Nagoya airport in central Japan on its maiden test flight as dozens of aviation enthusiasts watching the event erupted in applause as it lifted off into the clear morning sky.

Television footage showed the red-and-white aircraft roaring into the air, escorted by two Japanese military fighters that were collecting flight data.

The single-pilot prototype safely landed at Gifu air base, north of Nagoya airport, after a 25-minute flight with “no particular problems,” said an official at the defense ministry’s acquisition agency.

It was an “extremely stable” flight, the pilot was quoted as saying by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the main contractor.

“The control of the aircraft went exactly as in our simulated training sessions,” the pilot added.

The inaugural flight, which followed extensive ground tests, had been postponed due to bad weather and malfunctions of parts used in its escape system.

“The first flight has a very significant meaning that can secure technologies needed for future fighter development,” Defense Minister General Nakatani told reporters.

“We also expect it can be applied to other fields and technological innovation in the entire aviation industry,” Nakatani added.

The X-2, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and 200 other firms, measures 14.2 meter (47 feet) long and 9.1 meter wide and was built as a successor to F-2 fighter jets developed jointly with the United States.

Its delivery to the defense ministry is expected as early as next month and the acquisition agency “will continue analyzing data and check its stealth technology capability,” the agency official told AFP.

Presently, only the United States, Russia and China have been internationally recognized as having successfully developed and flown manned stealth jets, the agency said.

Japan began the project in 2009 and has reportedly spent about 39.4 billion yen ($332 million) to develop the aircraft.

The country was barred from developing aircraft for a number of years after its defeat in World War II but eventually produced the YS-11, a propeller passenger plane that began flying in the early 1960s.

In another aviation milestone in November last year, Japan’s first domestically produced passenger jet, also developed by Mitsubishi Heavy, made its maiden test flight.

Daily Sabah

Aselsan and Roketsan work on national air defense

National Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said that works on the HİSAR national air defense system are continuing at full speed. The HİSAR project, expected to be finished by 2020, was initiated after Turkey cancelled a bid with China for a long-range air defense system. Yılmaz said that the decision was made after Turkey changed objectives, focusing instead on the domestic development of a defense system.

The national defense minister said that Turkish defense system producers Aselsan and Roketsan are the prime contractor and subcontractor of the HİSAR project, respectively. The decision to cancel the bid with China came in spite of a decision by the Defense Industry Executive Committee in 2013 to launch negotiations with China for the Long-Range Missile Defense System. Negotiations were officially halted on Nov. 13 last year in lieu of a decision on domestic production for the proposed system.

Yılmaz stressed that the decision was made under the pretext that defense policies must be based on long-term national studies that focus on the principle of deterrence.

Addressing questions raised by the ministers of Parliament regarding Turkey’s national air defense system, Yılmaz also said that many other companies operating in the defense industry play a crucial role in the development and production processes of the subcomponents of respective air defense systems. He added that air defense systems differ according to their ranges, emphasizing that the development processes varies as well, depending on the respective altitudes and ranges. Alongside the project, Aselsan is developing new radar, command and control systems as well as fire control systems, while Roketsan is developing the missile systems of the HİSAR project.

Daily Sabah

Turkey to acquire heavy lift airplane

Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, SSM, is preparing to issue an RfI for the acquisition of a freighter airplane, sources familiar with SSM’s aerospace procurement programs informed TR Defence on Wednesday.

The requirement was said to be for a single airplane at this time.

“[Turkey] needs this aircraft to haul heavy, precious cargo to long distances. For example, when we needed to transport our new reconnaissance satellite [referring to the Gokturk-1] to the TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) facilities a few months ago for planned tests and most recently to ship a T-129 [ an attack helicopter] to an international defence exhibition. At the present time, we have to spend a lot of money and rent this service from the international market. The ability to meet this requirement nationally is quickly gaining importance,” stated the report.

Procurement model for the heavy freighter airplane is expected to be a direct purchase with minimal or no domestic industry involvement. RfI is expected to be issued following a long disputed general reelection scheduled for November 1st.

SSM will likely form a new company to be jointly owned with the private sector in order to operate the new aircraft and provide heavy shipping services worldwide while the aircraft is not in use by Turkey.

Aselsan Reveals AKKOR Active Protection System for Armored Vehicles

AKKOR
Interceptor launcher for the AKKOR active protection system.

Turkish military electronics giant Aselsan has unveiled a new active protection system, dubbed AKKOR (short for Aktif Koruma) at the IDEF’15 international defense fair in Istanbul. The system is intended primarily to provide Turkey’s indigenous Altay tanks with a hard-kill self defense capability, but it can also be used aboard AIFVs, APCs and other armored vehicles.

AKKOR features an impressive reaction time of only 1/15th of a second, allowing it to effectively defend the host platform against rockets and missiles fired from a distance as close as 50 meters (164 feet). It consists of three main components: a central processing unit that functions as the brain of the whole system, four M-band radar sensors and, typically, two projectile launchers capable of firing four smart interceptors. Each radar sensor continuously scans a 100-degree arc, creating a full 360 degree detection capability with some overlap. AKKOR’s radar plates, in their current configuration, can detect incoming threats with an elevation of up to 75 degrees, but vehicles can be integrated with an additional sensor on the roof as well for protection against top-attack missiles such as the Javelin.

What sets AKKOR apart from its competition is its smart interceptor. Most other hard-kill active protection systems detect an incoming threat, calculate its trajectory, find out when it will arrive at a certain point in space, and then fire a bunch of projectiles, typically steel balls (like a shotgun pellets), toward that general direction hoping that at least one of the steel balls will hit the threat and destroy it before it can make contact with the host platform. This technique, while simple and efficient, doesn’t protect against the newer generation, variable-velocity rockets and missiles that are designed to trick an active protection system into firing too early or too late, and consequently missing.

AKKOR, on the other hand, goes one step further. First, just like a legacy active protection system, it detects a threat, calculates its trajectory and aims towards a point in its path to intercept it — within a deviation allowance of less than 1 degree. Then, instead of firing a swarm of steel balls like its competition, AKKOR launches a single smart interceptor with its own on-board sensor, jointly developed by TUBITAK SAGE, and a high explosive warhead. Once activated, the interceptor continuously measures the distance between itself and the incoming threat during its short flight, detonates the high explosive warhead when it determines that it’s closest to the threat and effectively destroys it, all within the span of about one to two seconds. This method ensures the highest hit probability and effectiveness against both older and the newest generation anti-tank rockets and missiles.

“We’ve begun AKKOR’s development back in 2008 and successfully demonstrated the core technology behind it in a prototype back in 2010.” an Aselsan engineer explained at IDEF’15. “At the time, AKKOR proved effective against a HAR-55 projectile, also known as the M72 LAW.”

Aselsan aims to finish the development of the AKKOR system in time to field it aboard Turkey’s Altay main battle tanks and other armored vehicles. A lighter version, dubbed AKKOR Lite, and a naval version, AKKOR Naval, are being designed for use aboard lighter vehicles and by the navy respectively.

Aselsan hopes to sign a contract in the second half of 2015 with Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the SSM, for further field tests. Serial production is expected to start in 2017 so that the system be can made available for the country’s first batch of 250 Altay main battle tanks.

Why Turkey May Not Buy Chinese Missile Systems

Another deadline came and went at the end of April without a decision in Turkey’s drawn out effort to purchase a surface-to-air missile (SAM) with anti-missile capabilities. The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced its intention to purchase the Chinese HQ-9 system in September 2013. However, the bidding deadline has subsequently been extended three times, with the latest extension through the end of June allowing time to consider revised bids from Eurosam and the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin consortium.

The bid from the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC) appeared to meet all the criteria in Turkey’s tender. It came in $600 million under the asking price of $4 billion and the Chinese company offered co-production of the HQ-9, an important consideration for a Turkish government that aspires to develop its domestic defense industry. The HQ-9 system also reportedly tested well, exhibiting a capability to engage cruise missiles on a par with that of the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Patriot system, and potentially a longer range for conventional air targets than the Patriot and Eurosam Aster 30 systems. Chinese media sources also reported that although the HQ-9 system has a shorter range than the Russian system, it has a faster response time (15 seconds) and it hit all nine of its targets in trials. Turkey felt confident that it could finalize the deal in six months (another deadline that passed in April) and was encouraged that the Chinese company offered the shortest timeline for delivery of the system. What went wrong?

The United States and other NATO countries expressed deep concern about the deal, raising questions about the security implications of CPMIEC system’s integration into NATO’s command and control network and the implications of Chinese technical knowledge about how U.S. and NATO air and missile defenses operate. U.S. and NATO leaders such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have pressured Turkish leaders to change their minds. U.S. lawmakers also wrote a provision into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stating that no U.S. funds could be used to integrate Chinese missile defense systems into U.S. or NATO systems, a condition explicitly meant to encourage Turkey to backtrack from its decision to work with the Chinese.

Faced with higher than anticipated costs and under pressure from NATO and the United States, the Turkish government reopened bidding for the project several times. Successive extensions of the bidding deadline to January, then April, and now June 2014 have allowed time for U.S. and French-Italian companies to revise and resubmit their bids. Prospects for the HQ-9 dimmed further when Murad Bayar, undersecretary for the defense industry and the main proponent of the deal with China, was removed from his post within the Turkish Defense Ministry on March 27 and reassigned within the government.

If CPMIEC somehow perseveres and wins the contract, it would be a major success for the Chinese defense industry. This deal would mark China’s largest-ever military export sale and the first significant arms contract with a European country. Chinese arms exports have expanded significantly in recent years, with a 212 percent increase from 2009-2013 over 2004-2008. A completed deal could signal China’s ability to make significant inroads in the European and Middle Eastern arms sales markets.

Even if CPMIEC ultimately loses the deal, its success in the initial bidding highlights the progress China has made in missile and electronics capability. This was the first time that China demonstrated its ability to domestically develop and produce a long-range SAM and missile defense system with a quality comparable to that of the world leaders in defense technology. Airbus CEO Tom Enders expressed concern at China’s growing indigenous design and production capabilities, citing this near-deal and the development of advanced unmanned vehicles as evidence of China becoming “a serious competitor.”

Turkey appears unlikely to consummate the deal with CPMIEC, though it is unclear which Western company Turkey will ultimately choose. Raytheon/Lockheed Martin have offered to meet Turkey’s technology transfer requirement, but that would raise the price even further over Turkey’s $4 billion budget.

The drawn out process shows that China faces significant political and security barriers to entry into the European market from the United States and other NATO countries. This will be a significant obstacle for the Chinese defense industry going forward, especially in efforts to sell weapons to U.S. allies and close partners. On the other hand, CPMIEC’s success in winning the initial tender with an appealing combination of price, performance and technology transfer highlights the Chinese defense industry’s potential to compete with U.S. and European suppliers for third country markets where Western countries are less well placed to play the security card.

Denise Der

Turkey may scrap Chinese missile deal

Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion missile defence system contract to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, may begin seeking other offers. Photo: Reuters
Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion missile defence system contract to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, may begin seeking other offers. Photo: Reuters

Chinese military experts blast Ankara, saying the US$3.4 billion defence contract was dropped due to pressure from US and NATO.

A Chinese firm has not met all the conditions set in a tender to build a missile defence system for Turkey, officials in Ankara said on condition of anonymity.

Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion contract to a Chinese firm, may begin seeking other offers, the officials noted.

Chinese analysts said Turkey’s reasons for backing out of the deal for China’s FD-2000 missile defence system were “not convincing”. The analysts described Ankara’s move as “predictable” and the “result of pressure” from the US and NATO.

Feng Zhongping , director of European studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the assertion about failing to meet tender conditions was “ridiculous.”

“As a member of the NATO alliance, Turkey should have the common sense to know its defence system doesn’t match [the] Chinese FD-2000 missile system,” said Feng. “I think [the] real reason behind Turkey’s decision to pull out of the deal … is the great pressure from its NATO allies, with Washington paying close attention to Chinese military technology.”

NATO voiced concern when Ankara said in September it had chosen China’s HQ-9, or FD-2000 air-defence system, from China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp over the Patriot system from the US firm Raytheon and rival systems from Russia’s Rosoboronexport and Italian-French consortium Eurosam.

At the time of the tender, officials said China offered the most competitive terms and allowed for co-production in Turkey.

Feng implied that the Russian system was also being pushed out of the tender as a result of geopolitics, in particular NATO’s position towards Russia in Ukraine. Russia’s Rosoboronexport revised its offer, but it remains higher than the others and unlikely to win approval.

Beijing-based military expert Xu Guanyu said it was possible Ankara would choose the US Patriot system by default, as both China and Russia had been effectively sidelined.

“Turkey was using China as a bargaining chip to force the US firm to compromise,” said Xu, noting that the resulting deal might see Raytheon lower its price and adjust its technology.

On April 30, Ankara extended the bidding for two months. Bids from Eurosam and Raytheon were due to expire on April 30, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

In March, Murad Bayar, a top Turkish defence official, was sacked. Bayar played a key role in negotiations to buy Turkey’s first long-range anti-missile system from the Chinese firm.

South China Morning Post

Ukrainian military helicopter shot down in Slaviansk

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

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

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

 

The New Strategic Reality in the Black Sea

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

Russian gains

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

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

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

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

Emerging duopoly?

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

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

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

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

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

Geopolitical shifts

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

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

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

By Mr. Adam Klus

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

Turkey, Moldova to deepen military cooperation

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

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

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

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

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

Bsanna News

Turkey hails deployment of monitoring mission in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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