Serial Production Started in Key Weapon Programs

Turkey's nationally developed UMTAS anti-tank missiles and Cirit laser-guided rockets on display at a military exhibition in Istanbul.

The head of the under-secretariat for the defense industry, Murad Bayar, has outlined Turkey’s armaments objectives in coming years. This year, Turkey plans to finish tests on several national weapons systems that have been developed and move to the serial production phase. In the next stage, building on that momentum, Turkey plans to increase its arms exports as well as reduce its reliance on imports (Anadolu Ajansi, January 23).

During the past decade, Turkey has embarked on ambitious programs to reduce its dependence on external sources for the procurement needs of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), the second largest army in NATO. On the one hand, through stringent rules on procurement tenders, Ankara wanted to ensure that domestic firms will take part in the production of imported weapons systems, as well as enabling technology transfers. On the other hand, building on the accumulation of knowledge gained from these joint projects and the assistance and subsidies provided to the domestic arms industry and R&D activities, Turkey has been working to develop several “national” weapons systems. So far, Ankara’s ambitious national arms projects included the development of a national warship, main battle tank, attack helicopter, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and an infantry rifle.

Turkey has been cooperating with Italy’s Augusta-Westland on an attack helicopter project, which is aimed at resolving the Turkish army’s deficiencies in its fight against the PKK. Earlier, a prototype of this helicopter was developed, which is going through flight and weapons systems tests (EDM, September 29, 2009). Turkey is proud of the attack helicopter deal and sees it almost as an advertisement for its recent national projects. Turkey obtained the sole production license from Italy and introduced the necessary modifications, in order that it meets the specific operational needs of its army in mountainous terrain. Moreover, reflecting its self-confidence in indigenous technological abilities, the electronic systems and the software of the helicopter will be developed in Turkey, meaning it will have full control over the platform’s operation. The weapons installed on the helicopter will also come from national weapons developed domestically in recent years, including Cirit laser-guided rocket systems.

Bayar announced that they are planning to finish firing tests and start the first deliveries to the TAF this year, and complete the delivery of 51 helicopters in the coming years. Bayar also noted that once this platform is added to TAF’s inventory, it will have good marketing prospects. This system will be in demand, Bayar believes, especially in countries that are currently fighting terrorism, given that Turkey developed it with such considerations in mind. Several Middle Eastern countries are believed to be considering ATAK. After successfully passing the flight tests in summer 2011, ATAK has also been invited to submit its bid to a procurement tender in South Korea (Sabah, September 25, 2011).

Another major project is the main battle tank ALTAY, developed in partnership with South Korea’s Rotem (EDM, August 7, 2008). This project seeks to increase the TAF’s firepower in conventional warfare through the procurement of 250 third generation main battle tanks. Currently, ALTAY is in its design phase and the initial deliveries are expected to start from 2013. Bayar noted that this year they plan to develop the first prototype and start the necessary tests.

Turkey also has been working on another ambitious project to bolster its surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities. In need of actionable intelligence in its fight against the PKK, Turkey has relied on the United States and Israel to either lease or buy UAVs. This cooperation, however, proved difficult to sustain given the tensions encountered in its bilateral relations with Israel and occasionally the US. Turkey has launched an indigenous medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV system program that will initially meet the TAF’s reconnaissance requirements, and later a modified version with combat capability will be developed. The prototypes are going through several tests. Following the maturity tests, Bayar expect the five prototypes to be put into operation and their serial production will start. Ankara sees this project also as a sign of prestige, as it will join the few nations with this technology and eventually develop the potential to export it. Similarly, Bayar expects that the first indigenous satellite developed by Turkey, the Gokturk-2, will be launched into space this year.

Another project has been the development of a national infantry rifle. Turkey is currently conducting tests on a rifle designed and developed domestically, and anticipates moving to the mass production stage this year. The country has also been running a national warship program, MILGEM, to develop a littoral combat capacity. Under the project, the Turkish Navy will be supplied with eight corvettes and four frigates, as well as exploring possibilities for exports. The first corvette has already been delivered, while the second is undergoing tests.

Recently, Ankara announced plans to develop a national fighter jet. Bayar described it as a long term objective, which would mark Turkey’s elevation to a higher class in arms producing countries. Turkey is currently considering this option and will soon initiate two-year long feasibility studies. If the project is deemed feasible, further work will be authorized to develop the first prototype in ten years’ time and serial production in the following decade. Turkey has also announced another ambitious program to develop long-range missiles with a range of up to 2,500 km (www.trt.net.tr, January 13).

Although Turkey remains a major arms importer, through these programs it is now able to procure slightly more than half of its needs from domestic sources. Currently, Turkey is producing short range missiles, armored vehicles and personnel carriers, training aircraft, small UAVs, etc. Especially in advanced weapons systems, Turkey remains dependent on imports, and addressing that deficiency is one of the objectives of the procurement programs. In the future, while seeking to increase the share of domestic contributions, Turkey will also work to bolster its export figures to $1 billion, from last year’s $800 million. Overall, two principles will underpin Turkey’s defense industry policies, as underlined by Bayar: depth, i.e., increasing the national contributions in the new platforms through the development of sub-systems; and sustainability, or, building a viable arms industry that can sustain mass production at competitive prices.

By Saban Kardas

Turkey threatens intervention into Iraq

Relations between the Turkish and Iraqi governments have deteriorated sharply. In a speech to parliament on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the head of a Sunni Islam-based religious party, accused his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of a Shiite-coalition, of promoting sectarian violence against the Sunni minority in Iraq.

Erdogan warned: “Maliki should know that if you start a conflict in Iraq in the form of sectarian clashes it will be impossible for us to remain silent. Those who stand by with folded arms watching brothers massacre each other are accomplices to murder.”

Erdogan was responding to complaints by Maliki that Turkey has been interfering in Iraqi domestic politics through its support for the largely Sunni-based Iraqiya coalition, which is engaged in a fierce power struggle with the government in Baghdad.

The implications of Erdogan’s statement are unmistakable. They amount to a direct threat that Turkey will support an intervention into Iraq on the same pretext of “defending civilians” used to justify the NATO-led intervention to oust Gaddafi regime in Libya. In the case of Iraq, intervention would be justified with the allegation that Maliki is persecuting the country’s Sunnis.

The Turkish stance toward Maliki is inseparable from the broader US-backed drive to refashion geopolitical relations in the Middle East and, above all, to shatter the regional influence of Iran. US allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf state monarchies—all dominated by Sunni elites—have lined up with Washington against Shiite-ruled Iran. They are using inflammatory sectarian language to try to galvanise support for a policy that threatens to trigger a regional war.

The Syrian regime, which is a longstanding Iranian ally and based on an Allawite Shiite ruling stratum, has been targeted for “regime change.” The current Iraqi government, while it is the direct creation of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, is also viewed as unacceptable by the regional US allies. The Shiite factions forming the Maliki government have longstanding ties with the Iranian religious establishment. Maliki has refused to support an ongoing US military presence in Iraq or economic sanctions, let alone military aggression, against Syria and Iran.

Iraqiya, which was part of the ruling coalition, campaigned aggressively to weaken the political dominance of the Shiite parties in the lead-up to the withdrawal of US combat troops in December. Sunni leaders accused Maliki of reneging on an agreement to preside over a “national unity” government and pressured him to place the main security ministries under the direction of Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi.

Allawi, a secular Shiite, had been a long-time American collaborator before the US invasion and was installed by the US in 2004 as the “interim” prime minister of Iraq. He sanctioned the military repression of the Sunni population and atrocities such as the destruction of the largely Sunni city of Fallujah. Despite this history, he was adopted by the Sunni elites as their main representative after the effective collapse of the anti-occupation insurgency. His qualifications are his hostility to the Shiite religious parties, his anti-Iranian Arab nationalism and his close connections to Washington.

Attempts to elevate Allawi, with clear support from the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have suffered something of a shipwreck. Maliki and his Shiite-based Da’wa Party, which was repressed by the Sunni-dominated Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, responded with a pre-emptive strike against the challenge to their grip on power.

Hundreds of ex-Baath Party members, particularly former senior military officers, have been rounded up and detained. Allawi alleged this month that more than 1,000 members of his and other parties opposed to Maliki had been arrested in recent months. He claimed they had been subjected to torture to extract false confessions of committing “terrorism.” There has been a growing number of indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas and religious events by suspected Sunni extremists. Last week, 34 men accused of terrorism were executed in a single day.

In the most high-profile case of alleged Sunni “terrorism,” the bodyguards of Iraqiya Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi—one of the country’s highest ranking politicians—were detained and allegedly tortured. They were paraded on national television in late December to accuse the Sunni leader of personally directing a sectarian death squad.

Hashemi has only escaped arrest by taking refuge in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. He has been charged with crimes that carry a death sentence.

Maliki responded to a walkout of Iraqiya ministers from his cabinet by having their offices locked and stripping them of their political responsibilities. The Iraqi parliament has continued to sit despite a boycott by most Iraqiya members.

Last Friday, the Iraqiya deputy governor of the majority Sunni province of Diyala, who agitated last year for regional autonomy, was seized by secret police operating under Maliki’s command. He has been charged with “terrorist activities.”

The present crisis could rapidly lead to the eruption of civil war and potentially fracture Iraq along sectarian lines, drawing in other regional powers such as Turkey and Iran. The majority of the 300,000-strong Iraqi military are Shiites. While poorly trained and equipped, they have a degree of allegiance to Maliki’s government.

A confrontation is looming between the Maliki government and the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Last week, a Shiite politician advocated an economic blockade of the Kurdish region unless Vice President Hashemi was handed over for trial. The Kurdish government has its own 200,000-strong armed forces.

Following the 2003 invasion, the US fostered sectarian divisions as a means of undermining the previous Baathist elite and blocking a unified resistance by ordinary working people against the occupation and collapse of living standards. Now the US is encouraging its regional allies to back the Sunni and Kurdish elites against the Maliki government, with reckless indifference for the rapidly escalating violence.

By James Cogan, WSWS

Boeing wins $3.48 bln missile defense contract

Boeing beat out Lockheed Martin to retain its position as the prime contractor for the U.S. long-range missile shield, the Pentagon said on Dec. 30.

The U.S. Defense Department said it was awarding Boeing a $3.48 billion, seven-year contract to develop, test, engineer and manufacture missile defense systems.

A team led by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon had vied with Boeing to expand and maintain the “Ground-based Midcourse Defense” (GMD) hub of layered antimissile protection.
Boeing partnered with Northrop Grumman to retain the work.

“We believe the government conducted a fair and open competition, making the right decision for the future of the program,” Norm Tew, Boeing vice president and program director of GMD, said in a statement.

‘Shield against Iran, North Korea’

The GMD contract’s value to Boeing will have been about $18 billion from January 2001, when it formally became the system’s prime contractor, through the end of this year, Boeing has said.

GMD uses radar and other sensors plus a more than 32,000-kilometer fiber optic communications network to cue interceptors in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The shield has been shaped initially to guard against ballistic missiles that could be fired by Iran and North Korea. It is the only U.S. defense against long-range missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.

Reuters

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

A year of rediscovery for US and Turkey

The United States and Turkish governments in many senses rediscovered each other in 2011, achieving constructive engagement — especially in the aftermath of the people’s revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

In stark contrast, the previous year Ankara irked many in Washington with its relatively accommodating stance vis-à-vis Tehran. Deep tactical differences between the two governments on how to deal with Iran’s controversial nuclear program yielded to Turkey’s decision to cast a no vote for sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council. The US, in return, raised its concerns publicly and privately to a point where there were untypically harsh exchanges between US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Toronto. Amidst serious doubts about the direction of Turkey, some American observers even speculated the country was changing its traditional Western trajectory

US-Turkish official relations miraculously recovering from that low point and quickly ascending to one of its best periods in history this year can mainly be attributed to the so-called Arab Spring. Despite initial confusion, both governments eventually adopted a pro-change strategy in the region and found reliable partners in each other. Turkey — with its increasing appeal to the Arab Street and improved political influence — actively helped many US goals such as ousting the Col. Gaddafi regime in Libya and boosting pressure on the Assad regime in Syria. Turkey considers its US ties important for securing its interests in the regional power play evident between an Iran-led Shiite bloc and Sunni nations. In a dramatic twist of events, Ankara undoubtedly positioned itself with the US and other Western allies by agreeing to host a critical NATO missile defense radar that Iran sees as a threat. Iran, in return, is using its influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to block Turkish reintegration with the rest of the region for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman state.

Iraq, once a subject of deep resentment between the US and Turkey due to Washington’s unilateral occupation and Ankara’s hesitation to support it, has turned into a crucial ground for cooperation. In the aftermath of the American troop withdrawal, both governments want to see a unified and stable Iraq. In the event that the country breaks up, Turkey’s enhanced economic, political and social ties with the Kurdish north closely allied with Washington would serve as a cushion. The US government has proved sensitive to Turkey’s national security concerns regarding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which uses the mountains in northern Iraq as a safe haven for its terrorists. Intelligence aid provided to Turkey will not be interrupted by the halt of US operations in Iraq. Four US surveillance drones have been transferred to the US air base in İncirlik, Adana, and have been operating from there. In November, the US Congress approved the sale of three SuperCobra attack helicopters to Turkey.

Historically, the most difficult terrain for Turkey in Washington has been Capitol Hill. 2011 was no exception, especially given the political sensitivities aroused by Turkey’s seriously deteriorated relations with Israel. Pro-Israel forces joined with traditionally hostile elements such as the Armenian and Greek lobbies to make life difficult for Turkey in the US Congress. However, as usual, the US House of Representatives fell short of passing a resolution marking the events of 1915 as the “Armenian genocide.” The House adopted Resolution 306 in December that urged Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and return confiscated Christian properties.

On the other hand, the Obama administration applauded an August decree by the Erdoğan government that invited non-Muslims to reclaim churches and synagogues that were confiscated 75 years ago. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which had initially blocked Francis Ricciardone’s appointment as US ambassador to Ankara, approved the nomination in September. What is remarkable was the fact that despite the rift with Israel, the closest US ally in the Middle East, Washington was able to improve its relations with Ankara on a separate track, while urging restraint to both sides. Even Ankara’s veiled threats to Tel Aviv over its cooperation with the Greek Cypriot government on natural gas exploration in a coastal area disputed by the Turkish Cypriots received a relatively muted response from Washington.

President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan personally invested generously in bilateral relations and have largely been instrumental in setting the current positive tone from atop. Perhaps only second to his British counterpart, President Obama has frequently called Erdoğan to consult and reflect on the developments in the region. Obama has made it clear he attaches a special value to relations with Turkey by making Ankara one of his first foreign destinations upon assuming office. Obama and Erdoğan were quick to recover from the hiccups of 2010 and built a cordial relationship, unparalleled by any American and Turkish leaders.

At the lower levels of bureaucracy, especially at the State Department, suspicions concerning Turkey’s relatively independent foreign policy linger to some extent. Likewise, American ambitions in the region keep Turkish cynicism alive in a nation where the US government’s public image remains low. However, Turkish officials are relieved by the visibly improved level and frequency of official consultations. It’s very rare for both the US president and vice president to visit a foreign nation in the same term. Vice President Joe Biden’s successful visit to Turkey in early December only reaffirmed the positive trend in US-Turkish relations.

From Afghanistan to the Balkans, from Central Asia to Africa, Turkey’s dynamic foreign policy and growing economic clout is increasingly regarded as an asset by the Americans. When the US is confronted by hurdles in continuing its military dominance and faces resistance from local populations, an emerging Turkey provides a useful venue for many American political and economic projects. Turkey’s improving democracy and strong security ties with the West — despite diminishing prospects for EU membership — serve as an antidote to the clash of civilizations that the US is also trying to avert. Apparently there is no better ally than Turkey practically and ideologically to counter anti-Western radical and terrorist movements emanating from the Muslim world. However, a lack of meaningful trade between the two countries and relatively poor public knowledge remains a mutual challenge.

 

US, Iran in tit-for-tat threats over Hormuz

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Thursday that the United States was not in a position to tell Tehran “what to do in the Strait of Hormuz”, state television reported.

Tehran’s warning to block crude shipments through the crucial passage for Middle Eastern suppliers followed the European Union’s decision to tighten sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, as well as accompanying moves by the United States to tighten unilateral sanctions.

Iran’s English-language Press TV quoted Hossein Salami as saying: “Any threat will be responded by threat … We will not relinquish our strategic moves if Iran’s vital interests are undermined by any means.”

Separately, Salami was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency: “Americans are not in a position whether to allow Iran to close off the Strait of Hormuz.”

The U.S. Fifth Fleet said on Wednesday it would not allow any disruption of traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, a strip of water separating Oman and Iran.

At loggerheads with the West over its nuclear programme, Iran said earlier it would stop the flow of oil through the strait in the Gulf if sanctions were imposed on its crude exports.

Analysts say that Iran could potentially cause havoc in the Strait of Hormuz which connects the biggest Gulf oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. At its narrowest point, it is 21 miles (34 km) across.

But its navy would be no match for the firepower of the Fifth Fleet which consists of 20-plus ships supported by combat aircraft, with 15,000 people afloat and another 1,000 ashore.

WB

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

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

China’s first aircraft carrier ‘starts sea trials’

Varyag being escorted by tug boats as it is passing the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey.

China’s first aircraft carrier sailed out of the northeastern port of Dailan for sea trials Wednesday morning, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

China has spent nearly a decade refurbishing the 67,000-ton, 300-meter ship, begun by the former Soviet Union but never completed.

Xinhua quoted military sources as saying the trials would be brief, and the carrier would return to Dailan for further refits.

China once renounced aircraft carriers as tools of imperialism, but has been developing a blue-water navy in recent years, along with air power to back it up.

The Varyag was originally intended to serve in the Pacific Fleet of the Soviet Navy in 1993, but the disintegration of the Soviet Union scuttled those plans. The care of the Varyag soon fell on China.

In 1998, a Chinese company purchased the ship at auction at the cost of $20 million. Unexpectedly, the Turkish government denied the carrier passage through the Bosporus Strait. The Chinese government negotiated with them, and finally the Varyag came to China and started its new life.

HDN