A recently leaked classified document involving a top (former) procurement agency official has revealed that Turkey has started development on a new type of weapon that utilizes thermobaric concepts. Authorities were not immediately available for comment to confirm or deny the new information..
The leaked document indicates that a specialized wing of Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council, dubbed SAGE, has been charged by the country’s defence ministry with prototyping and testing of the new weapon following a high level defence committee meeting in 2013. Current status of the project is unknown, but the fact that the news surfaced while Russia accused Ukraine of illegally selling its missile technology to Turkey and a number of other countries has raised eyebrows.
Turkey is known for keeping its more advanced weapon systems classified for many years.
A thermobaric weapon is a type of explosive that utilizes oxygen from the surrounding air to generate an intense, high-temperature explosion, and in practice the blast wave such a weapon produces is typically significantly longer in duration than a conventional condensed explosive. The specific weapon Turkey is working on is presumed to be a fuel-air bomb, one of the most well-known types of thermobaric warheads..
These cause considerably more destruction than other similar explosives when used in lower altitudes or inside confined environments such as tunnels, caves, and bunkers.
The new thermobaric warhead is likely to be aircraft deliverable, but it is also expected that Turkey will make them an option on its growing inventory of surface-to-surface missile systems.
Pakistan on Thursday strongly denied it had any plans to send weapons to Syrian rebels, following reports that Saudi Arabia was holding talks with it about arming the opposition.
Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam said at a regular briefing that Islamabad did not supply arms to “entities”, meaning rebel groups, and respected Syria’s sovereignty.
“The policy guidelines for the sale of arms that we have are in line with the adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN charter,” she said.
Pakistan recognized the right of all states to protect their security, she said, and wanted an end to the bloodshed in Syria.
She stressed that “regime change from outside by any means is something that Pakistan has persistently and very strongly opposed”.
“We also have what is known as end users’ certificate which ensures that our weapons are not resold or provided to a third country,” she said.
“Our position on Syria has been very clear and has been articulated again and again.”
A Saudi source said Sunday that Riyadh was seeking Pakistani anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets for forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebels have long sought anti-aircraft rockets to defend themselves against Syrian warplanes, which regularly bomb rebel-held areas with barrels loaded with TNT and other ordnance.
The United States has opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists.
But Syrian opposition figures say the failure of peace talks in Geneva seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.
The nearly three-year conflict in Syria has torn the country apart, killing more than 140,000 people including some 50,000 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Aslam said Pakistan had taken note of the humanitarian situation in Syria and wanted to see the Syrian people getting the supplies they needed.
Russia, a key ally of Syria, on Tuesday warned Saudi Arabia against supplying the rebels with shoulder-launched rocket launchers, saying it would endanger security across the Middle East.
On Wednesday, Syria shipped out a consignment of mustard gas for destruction at sea under a disarmament deal approved by the UN Security Council to dispose of its chemical weapons.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has told Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender by 5 a.m. on Tuesday or face a military assault, Interfax news agency quoted a source in the Ukrainian Defence Ministry as saying.
The ultimatum, Interfax said, was issued by Alexander Vitko, the fleet’s commander.
The ministry did not immediately confirm the report and there was no immediate comment by the Black Sea Fleet, which has a base in Crimea, where Russian forces are in control.
“If they do not surrender before 5 a.m. tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea,” the agency quoted the ministry source as saying.
Troops take Crimea terminal
Pro-Russian troops controlled a ferry terminal on the easternmost tip of Ukraine’s Crimea region close to Russia on March 3, intensifying fears that Moscow will send even more troops into the strategic Black Sea region in its tense dispute with its neighbor.
The seizure of the terminal in the Ukrainian city of Kerch about 20 kilometers by boat to Russia, comes as the U.S. and European governments try to figure out ways to halt and reverse the Russian incursion.
Early on March 3, soldiers were operating the terminal, which serves as a common departure point for many Russian-bound ships. The men refused to identify themselves, but they reportedly spoke Russian and the vehicles transporting them had Russian license plates.
Russia has taken effective control of the Crimean peninsula without firing a shot. Now, the fears in the Ukrainian capital and beyond are that that Russia might seek to expand its control by seizing other parts of eastern Ukraine. Senior Obama administration officials said the U.S. now believes that Russia has complete operational control of Crimea, a pro-Russian area of the country, and has more than 6,000 troops in the region.
Tension between Ukraine and Moscow rose sharply after Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed out by a protest movement among people who wanted closer ties with the European Union. Yanukovych fled to Russia after more than 80 demonstrators were killed near Kiev’s central square. Since then, troops that Ukraine says are Russian soldiers have moved into Crimea, patrolling airport, smashing equipment at an airbase and besieging Ukrainian military installations.
Outrage over Russia’s military moves mounted in world capitals, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling on President Vladimir Putin to pull back from “an incredible act of aggression.” Kerry is to travel to Ukraine on March 4.
Britain’s Hague meets with Yatsenyuk
Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and laid a bouquet of flowers on Kiev’s Independence Square where the slain demonstrators are being commemorated. Hague said it was urgent to get Russia and Ukraine “in direct communication with each other.”
Hague said on the BBC that Moscow would face “significant costs” for taking control of Crimea.
“If Russia continues on this course we have to be clear this is not an acceptable way to conduct international relations. That is something that Russia has to recognize … There will certainly be significant costs,” Hague said. “There are things that we can do about it and must do about it.”
He suggested economic sanctions were possible. “The world cannot just allow this to happen,” he said.
Putin has defied calls from the West to pull back his troops, insisting that Russia has a right to protect its interests and those of Russian-speakers in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine.
While much of western Ukraine wants closer ties with the 28-nation European Union, its eastern and southern regions like Crimea look to Russia for support.
Faced with the Russian threat, Ukraine’s new government has moved to consolidate its authority, naming new regional governors in the pro-Russia east, enlisting the support of the country’s wealthy businessmen and dismissing the head of the country’s navy after he declared allegiance to the pro-Russian government in Crimea.
Emergency meeting in Brussels
NATO held an emergency meeting in Brussels and the U.S., France and Britain debated the possibility of boycotting the next Group of Eight economic summit, to be held in June in Sochi, the host of Russia’s successful Winter Olympics.
On March 3 evening, the White House issued a joint statement on behalf of the Group of Seven saying they are suspending participation in the planning for the upcoming summit because Russia’s advances in the Ukraine violate the “principles and values” on which the G-7 and G-8 operate.
Russia has long wanted to reclaim the lush Crimean Peninsula, part of its territory until 1954. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet pays Ukraine millions annually to be stationed at the Crimean port of Sevastopol and nearly 60 percent of Crimea’s residents identify themselves as Russian.
Greece can potentially bring in more than 150 billion euros ($206 billion) in state revenue over the next 30 years through untapped oil and natural gas deposits, said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday, with the sum worth nearly half of Greece’s current debt mountain.
There are “very strong indications of significant” reserves off Greece’s western coast, Samaras told reporters, as cited by Bloomberg, adding that explorative work was already ongoing in waters off the island of Crete in the south.
The gulf of Patras, in the west, is thought to hold some 200 million barrels of crude oil, while another 50-80 million barrels are believed to lie near Ioannina and another three million barrels near Katakolo.
In 2012, the government commissioned a Norwegian contractor to carry out seismic surveys in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete in search for oil and gas. Drilling contracts for the region are to be issued later this year.
“We are completing the concession agreements for the gulf of Patras and Ioannina, where the indications are strongest, and they will be tabled for ratification by parliament,” Samaras said.”
Meanwhile, Greece resumed bailout talks with its international lenders on Monday, hoping to end six months of wrangling over the release of new rescue loans it needs to avoid default.
Athens has already obtained 218 billion of the 237 billion euros set aside under the bailout, which expires this year; and will require another disbursement of funds to repay 9.3 billion of bonds maturing in May.
The US has reportedly earmarked $10 billion to upgrade its “dumb” B61 tactical nuclear bombs with a newer, guided version dubbed B61-12.
B61 is a tactical nuclear warhead capable of delivering a pre-determined nuclear yield of up to 50 kilotons, large enough to level a whole city. Under a nuclear sharing agreement, these warheads have been deployed to bases in Turkey, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Various sources indicate the number of B61 warheads kept in Turkey to be around ninety, forty of which have been “assigned for host country use” under strict NATO supervision.
The B61-12 upgrade involves the installation of a modern INS navigation system that will enable a pilot to release the nuclear bomb with a much higher accuracy, making it unnecessary to use maximum yield to achieve a similar effect, minimizing unwanted collateral damage on the civilian population.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in order to encourage Turkey to play an active role in a military mission to help end sectarian unrest in the Central African Republic.
During the conversation which took place late on Feb. 24, Erdoğan stated that Turkey was still in the process of evaluating whether to take such a step, sources from the Prime Ministry told Anadolu Agency.
Ban requested Turkey’s contribution as part of the European Union’s military mission, while, for his part, Erdoğan pledged to keep up assistance for the Central African people.
Last week, Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community to send an additional 3,000 troops and police to Central African Republic to combat escalating sectarian violence until a likely U.N. peacekeeping force is established.
The EU had already requested Turkey to deploy troops to the Central African Republic as part of a union-wide effort. The demand to send troops was brought to the attention of Turkey in Brussels on Feb. 13 at a meeting under the leadership of French Maj. Gen. Philippe Ponties who has been appointed the commander of the EU military operation in the Central African Republic (EUFOR-CAR).
Asking for compensation from Libya
Also late on Feb. 24, Erdoğan held separate telephone conversations with Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu and Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.
During the conversation with Zeidan, Erdoğan touched upon damages that Turkish companies suffered due to Libya’s deteriorating security and growing internal tensions, the Prime Ministry sources said. In response to Erdoğan who asked for compensation of those damages, Zeidan said they planned to send an official delegation to Turkey in the coming weeks in order to negotiate these issues.
Meanwhile, Eroğlu initiated the conversation during which he informed Erdoğan about the state of affairs regarding ongoing peace talks with Greek Cypriots on the divided island.
TR Defence’s North America correspondent and acting editor-in-chief Hasan Karaahmet has interviewed Mr. Mike Boots, Patriot Turkey Program Manager at Raytheon Defense Systems, to shed light on some of the most common questions Turkish defense enthusiasts ask regarding Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS long-range air defence program.
Hasan Karaahmet: Mr. Boots, thank you for agreeing to talk to our readers. As a time-tested, battle-proven system, many countries around the world depend on the Patriot, both NATO and non-NATO. What is the driving force behind Patriot’s huge commercial success to this day?
Mike Boots: No other existing system has the proven combat experience of Patriot to engage evolving threats; and no other air and missile defense system has demonstrated the reliability and lower cost of system ownership. Patriot is the backbone of NATO’s lower tier defense, and as you know, Patriot is currently deployed in Turkey by NATO members Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
Hasan Karaahmet: What is the current level of deployment around the world?
Mike Boots: There are currently over 200 Patriot fire units deployed around the world with Raytheon’s 12 Patriot partners. More than 40 Patriot fire units are now in construction or are undergoing modernization.
Hasan Karaahmet: How about the US? How long does the US military itself plan on using the Patriot air defence system?
Mike Boots: The US Army has committed to fielding Patriot beyond the year 2048.
Hasan Karaahmet: What’s Raytheon’s policy on investments in Turkey?
Mike Boots: Raytheon has a long history working in Turkey — from ground based air defence systems like Stinger and Hawk to tactical radars like Firefinder and Sentinel. From our family of air-to-air missiles like AMRAAM and AIM-9 to naval command management systems like Genesis. Raytheon is committed to partnerships with Turkish industry.
Hasan Karaahmet: Any cooperation prospects in regards to Patriot?
Mike Boots: We are already working closely with several Turkish defence companies to produce Patriot components for export to other countries. For example, Aselsan is a key strategic partner for Raytheon on the Antenna Mast Group for the UAE Patriot system. Roketsan is also a key strategic partner, producing components of GEM-T missile for the UAE and Kuwait. Also, Pagatel is producing command and control shelters, and AYESAS is working on the command and control integration.
Hasan Karaahmet: Turkey’s Undersecreteriat for Defence Industries, the SSM, has adopted a procurement policy favoring local production and technology sharing. What are Raytheon’s views on this?
Mike Boots: Both Roketsan and Aselsan have been awardedRaytheon’s prestigious Supplier Excellence awards for the past two years for the excellent work they have performed on these programs. We anticipate increased global Patriot work share for Roketsan and Aselsan and have recently signed long-ter, agreements with these great companies for collaboration on advanced technology co-development projects in the area of high altitude missile defense. In addition to these strategic partner companies I mentioned, many other Turkish defence companies have the experience and skills we look for in our suppliers. As we win in other countries, they will get the opportunity to compete for additional work for those programs.
Hasan Karaahmet: Can the Patriot system be operated in conjunction with an Aselsan radar or launch a Turkish-made missile with comparable capabilities?
Mike Boots: Patriot can use data and information from a wide variety of sources and can interface with a variety of equipment, including missiles. We would need to know the specific sensors or effectors we are talking about in order to adequately answer that question.
Hasan Karaahmet: Does the US government or certain laws restrict the transfer of know-how on any subsystem or component of Patriot to Turkey?
Mike Boots: No! Turkey is a valuable ally of the United States and a NATO partner. Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS program fulfills an important NATO air and missile defence commitment.
Hasan Karaahmet: Certain reports appeared in the Turkish defence media indicate that the Patriot procurement has been tied to Turkey’s being granted access to F-35 source codes and the SM-2/Aegis technology for TF-2000 class frigates. What can you tell me about this?
Mike Boots: Intellectual property (IP) rights, such as software source codes, are often an issue to be negotiated in any sale of new technology. A customer’s desire for IP rights must be balanced with the rights of the inventor and owner of those rights through the negotiation process.
Hasan Karaahmet: Mr. Boots, how does Patriot compare to the other Western contender in T-LORAMIDS, Eurosam’s SAMP/T? What makes Patriot the better of the two?
Mike Boots: As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, no other existing system has the proven combat experience of Patriot to engage evolving threats. No other air and missile defence system has demonstrated the reliability and lower cost of system ownership. Patriot is NATO’s lower tier defense with 200 Patriot fire units deployed around the world.
Hasan Karaahmet: In the past, we’ve published statements from mainly US sources that if Turkey opts for a non-Western solution, integration of the SAM system into NATO networks can be problematic. Can you explain to our viewers as to why this is the case?
Mike Boots: We have read and heard similar statements from various sources. NATO is very serious about protecting critical technology from falling into the hands of potential enemies. Patriot is a key element of NATO air and missile defence capability and works seamlessly with the NATO command and control architecture and other NATO defence systems. NATO would be very careful about what other systems might be connected to the architecture.
Hasan Karaahmet: What’s the future for Patriot? Is it going to continue to evolve with new capabilities beyond the GEM=T and PAC-3?
Mike Boots: The Patriot modernization roadmap will ensure Patriot remains the most advanced air and missile defence system in the world. If Turkey chooses Patriot for their long-range air and missile defense system, Turkish industry will have opportunities to participate in co-developing new technologies to help keep Patriot on the leading edge of technology.
Norway has picked a South Korean shipyard and a British design to provide its navy with a new logistics and support vessel.
The Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation has selected Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) to build the 26,000-ton vessel at its yard in Okpo, South Korea, using BMT Defence Services AEGIR replenishment vessel design.
The Anglo-Korean team last year won a deal to equip the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary with four tankers using another variant of the AEGIR family of support vessels.
The latest contract is worth around £140 million to the two contractors. Delivery of the vessel, which will be the largest in the Norwegian Navy, is scheduled for October 2016.
The vessel will be able to deliver a range of wet and dry stores and will provide support to a Norwegian task group and other roles.
DMSE was selected as the preferred bidder in April, having beat off competition from several rival yards from Europe and South Korea.
The original competition for the support vessel was abandoned last year after bids failed to meet the Norwegian budget. The requirement was rescoped and the competition relaunched at the start of this year.
The deal is the latest in a series of investments by the Norwegians to modernize their navy. To date, that has centered on the acquisition of five Fridtjof Nanse class frigates and a new fleet of fast patrol boats. A decision on what to do about retaining a submarine capability beyond the current Ula-class boats is expected next year.
Hungary announced Monday plans to sell off its old Soviet-made tanks and fighter planes, saying they were in “very good condition” but expensive to maintain.
Zoltan Borbiro, state secretary for the defense ministry, said MIG 29 fighter jets and T-72 tanks, military equipment and clothing would all be up for sale later this year.
“Since Hungary’s transition from communism in 1990, the army has been organized on a professional and modern basis, and a part of our military inventory is no longer compatible with NATO requirements,” he said.
“It won’t be an easy sale,” he admitted.
Hungary scrapped conscription in 2004 and now maintains an army of some 19,000 soldiers, down from around 140,000 during the Warsaw Pact era.
Hungary sold 77 of its stock of 180 T-72 tanks to the newly formed Iraqi army in 2005.
The Air Force’s most advanced strike aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, is a vital capability that the nation needs to stay ahead of adversary technological gains, the Air Force chief of staff told a Senate panel here, June 19.
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said air superiority is critical to the nation’s security and how the U.S. military plans to fight.
“The air superiority this nation has enjoyed for 60 years is not an accident and gaining and maintaining it is not easy,” Welsh said. “It requires trained proficient and ready Airmen and it requires credible, capable and technologically superior aircraft. I believe the F-35 is essential to ensuring we can provide that air superiority in the future.”
The F-35 is an unprecedented fifth generation fighter combining stealth technology with fighter speed and agility, fully integrated sensors and network enabled operations, and state-of-the-art avionics. However, design issues and production costs have put the F-35 program in real jeopardy.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall told the committee he believe those concerns have been addressed.
“The department’s and my focus has been on the efforts to control costs on the program, and to achieve a more stable design so that we could increase the production rate to more economical quantities,” Kendall testified. “Indications at this time are that these efforts are succeeding.”
The Air Force intends to use a portion of the proposed fiscal 2014 budget to support current defense strategic guidance and modernization programs like the F-35.
“Potential adversaries are acquiring fighters on par with or better than our legacy fourth generation fleet,” Welsh told the committee. “They’re developing sophisticated early warning radar systems and employing better surface to air missile systems, and this at a time when our fighter fleet numbers about 2,000 aircraft and averages a little over 23 years of age — the smallest and the oldest in the Air Force’s history.”
Welsh said America needs the F-35 to stay a step ahead and to “make sure the future fight is an away game and to minimize our risk to our ground forces when conflict inevitably does occur.”
“The F-35 is the only real, viable option to form the backbone of our future fighter fleet,” he said. “The F-35 remains the best platform to address the proliferation of highly capable integrated air defenses and new air-to-air threats.”