Israel inaugurated its fifth nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine April 29 in Kiel, Germany, home of the shipbuilding division of Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS).
The INS Rahav, the fifth of six Israeli submarines built at the German shipyard with funding assistance from Berlin, is expected to arrive here sometime next year following weapon system integration and sea trials.
It follows the May 2012 inauguration of Israel’s fourth Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Tanin, which is scheduled for operational deployment in the coming months.
Like its predecessor and the sixth submarine now undergoing hull construction at the TKMS shipyard, INS Rahav features an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system that allows for extended mission range and endurance.
By mid-2017, the Israel Navy should have full operational command of its strategic undersea fleet.
The Israel Navy’s Dolphin-class submarines are the product of two decades of strategic cooperative program between Israel and Germany. Constructed in Germany according to Israeli design specifications, the submarines host Israeli-developed command, control and combat systems including, according to foreign reports, land-attack and cruise missiles capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads.
German fully funded construction costs for Israel’s first two Dolphins, shared half the cost of Israel’s third submarine, and has underwritten about a third of the costs for the fourth and fifth vessels now undergoing sea trials. Under a government-to-government contract signed last year for Israel’s sixth and final Dolphin-class sub, Berlin agreed to underwrite some €135 million (US $175.8 million) on an acquisition that sources here say will exceed €600 million.
The April 29 inauguration ceremony was attended by Udi Shani, director-general of the Israeli MoD; Vice Adm. Ram Rothberg, Israeli Navy commander; and German counterparts.
The U.S. military’s intelligence spending fell $2.5 billion in 2012, continuing its decline as operations in Iraq finished and operations in Afghanistan wind down.
In all, Congress appropriated $21.5 billion for the military intelligence program [MIP], according to the Defense Department. The figure includes funding in the base budget and war spending accounts.
“The department determined that releasing this top line figure does not jeopardize any classified activities within the MIP,” DoD said in an Oct. 30 statement. “No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has not yet released spending figures for civilian intelligence programs. In February 2011, the Obama administration announced it was requesting $55 billion for 2012 civilian intelligence activities, also called the national intelligence program.
The national intelligence program includes the CIA budget and support to national policymakers. The military intelligence program funds battlefield commanders.
Funding for intelligence organizations, such as the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and others, comes from both the national and military programs.
In 2011, Congress appropriated $78.6 billion for civilian and military intelligence activities. Of that, lawmakers appropriated $54.6 billion for national intelligence programs and $24 billion for military intel programs.
Spending on military intelligence programs was $27 billion in 2010.
After reports of several Free Syrian Army commencements on the field, alongside an ever increasing death toll of civilians being slaughtered by the Assad regime, the Free Syrian Army has announced that it will be moving its headquarters from Turkey to what it defines as “liberated areas” within Syria.
In a video posted on YouTube, a leading figure of the FSA, the defected General Riad al-Asad announced that this move has been undertaken to “unite all rebel groups” and to fight “side by side with all brigades and factions” operating in Syria, until the Assad regime is removed. The FSA, a structure controlling the independent brigades and groups made up of defectors from the Syrian Armed Forces, aims to achieve a greater coordination with such a move and focus on exerting pressure to the heart of the regime in Damascus.
USAK researcher and Middle East specialist Ali Hussein Bakeer commented on the developments characterizing the FSA’s move as a “progress” and adding that this was a “necessary step” in the current conjuncture. He also added that the Syrian political opposition currently also residing in Turkey should join the military leaders and relocate inside Syria. According to Bakeer, the political opposition should move to liberated areas and take on a role helping attend the administrative management of these areas. Currently the public services within these liberated areas such as courts or hospitals are being conducted by the FSA. According to the USAK expert, FSA doesn’t have the capability to manage such facilities. Therefore the support of the political opposition could help the FSA concentrate its resources on military activities instead.
With regards to possible consequences for Turkey, the Middle East specialist also indicated that the FSA’s relocation to Syria could help alleviate the political pressure and focus on Turkey. Many Assad supporters have charged Turkey of housing terrorists inside its borders due to Turkey opening its borders to the FSA. This move could help shift the focus off Turkey, Bakeer notes.
A former U.S. intelligence analyst said Israeli spy network Mossad could be linked to a fatal bombing that killed top security officials in Damascus on July 18.
An unidentified former analyst said “the entire attack smelled of Mossad,” according to Kasım Cindemir of daily Habertürk. Members of the Syrian opposition reportedly claimed Israel played an important part in the attack, with some saying they received satellite images from Mossad showing the building where Syria’s National Security Council meeting took place.
Free Syrian Army officials had said the attack was not a suicide bombing and they had placed the explosives in the meeting room “days ago.” Louay al-Mokdad of the opposition force reportedly said they had placed 10 kilograms of C-4 explosives in the meeting room beforehand and that they intended to hit the meeting on its originally planned date of July 20. Al-Mokdad said the meeting was brought forward one day and that President Bashar al-Assad did not take part in it as they had anticipated. Syrian Information Minister Umran al-Zuabi blamed foreign intelligence agencies for the bombing, saying “Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel” were the forces behind the attack.
The latest defections bring the number of Syrian generals sheltering in Turkey to 22. A total of 43,387 Syrian refugees are now registered as living in the country.
The news comes as the Syrian army launches a new offensive against rebel-controlled areas of Damascus.
Rebels have already left the central Midan district after coming underÂ heavy bombardment, opposition activists and rebel sources said.
The state broadcaster reported: “Our brave army forces have completely cleaned the area of the remaining mercenary terrorists.”
Rebel commander Abu Omar insisted that the group’s withdrawal was “tactical”, and said they were still in the city. Reports emerging from the country on Friday suggested that rebels had torched barracks used by Mr Assad’s militia in the Ikhlas district.Â
Fierce fighting has also been reported in several districts in Aleppo, Syria’s second city.
On Thursday, opposition fighters seized control of a number of Syria’s key border crossings after clashes with the army.
Rebels also attacked the main police station in the capital Damascus in another sign that the rebel movement is at its strongest since the 16-month uprising began.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 302 people were killed across the country on Thursday, including 98 soldiers, 139 civilians and 65 rebels. If correct, it would be the deadliest day of fighting since the beginning of the revolt.
Officials in neighbouring Iraq said Syrian rebels were in control of the Syrian side of the main Abu Kamal border checkpoint on the Euphrates River highway, one of the main trade routes across the Middle East.
However the Iraqi army later sealed the border crossing with concrete blast walls to guard against any escalation in fighting.
Television pictures also showed rebels in control of the border crossing of Bab al Hawa into Turkey at one point but it has been reported that they later withdrew.
Opposition activists also managed to seize the Jarablus crossing into Turkey in what appears to be part of a co-ordinated campaign to seize strategic crossing routes.
In Damascus a witness in the central old quarter district of Qanawat said the huge headquarters of the Damascus Province police was black with smoke and abandoned after being torched and looted in rebel attacks.
“Three patrol cars came to the site and were hit by roadside bombs,” said activist Abu Rateb.
“I saw three bodies in one car. Others said dozens of security men and pro-Assad militia lay dead or wounded along Khaled bin al Walid street before ambulances took them away.” The activistâ s account cannot be independently verified.
There have been reports that Mr Assad has gone to the coastal town of Latakia where he has a presidential palace.
Latakia provides an easier location from which to make an escape if the president reaches the conclusion he has no option but to leave Syria.
There have been further reports that Syria’s first lady, Asma al Assad, has fled to the Russian capital Moscow. Again, these are unsubstantiated.
Meanwhile Russia has backed an unconditional 45-day extension of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, rather than Britain’s idea to add 30 days to their mandate.
“We will support it since we were involved in drawing up (the draft resolution) together with our Pakistani colleagues,” deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov said.
His comments came a day after Russia and China to block possible UN Security Council sanctions against its Middle East ally.
Russia Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich saidÂ the blocked resolution wasÂ “absolutely unrealistic” and called on Western nations to putÂ more pressure on Syrian rebels to stop fighting.
The epicenter of world diplomacy related to solving the Syrian crisis has begun to shift toward Moscow, as multiple diplomatic visitors converge on the Kremlin, beginning with U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The busy schedule of visits can be seen as an extension of last week’s series of meetings between Syrian opposition groups and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Syria peace mediator Annan is expected to land in Moscow today for talks with President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said yesterday that Annan would arrive in Moscow today and meet Putin the following day for talks in which “Russia will underscore its support for the peace plan of Kofi Annan.” “The Russian side proceeds from the premise that this plan is the only viable platform for solving internal Syrian problems,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Annan was also scheduled to meet Lavrov, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travels to China, a country that, along with Russia, has blocked two U.N. Security Council resolutions placing sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
This will be Annan’s second visit to Moscow since he won support from former President Dmitry Medvedev for his initial six-point peace initiative. Lavrov met with the head of the opposition Syrian National Council last week, without any sign of a change in his stance on the possible ways to resolve the 16-month conflict. Russia said last week that it will oppose a new U.N. resolution on Syria that is militarily enforceable.
“History will judge this council,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said July 13, referring to Russia’s veto threat. “Its members must ask themselves whether continuing to allow the al-Assad regime to commit unspeakable violence against its own people is the legacy they want to leave,” she said, after reports of new killings in Tremseh.
Syria, energy, Middle East on the agenda
A day after Putin meets Annan, the Russian president will welcome Erdoğan to discuss the future of Syria, energy issues and the latest developments in the Middle East. Although not on the agenda, the Turkish jet downed on June 22 is also expected to be discussed between the two statesmen, according to diplomatic sources speaking to Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
According to Turkish officials, Erdoğan is expected to ask for any records about the plane that Moscow has. The U.S. and the U.K. have recently handed over the information they had on the Turkish jet. Russia’s foreign minister said June 30 that Russia possesses “objective observation data” concerning the downing of the Turkish jet, and is prepared to present it.
Thanks to a consultation mechanism established by the foreign ministries of both countries, delegations from Turkey and Russia are expected to meet in the fall within the framework of periodic meetings. During their meeting at the G20 summit in Los Cabos last month, the two leaders agreed to meet privately before the fall meetings. In a phone call on June 27, Putin and Erdoğan discussed the situation in Syria and agreed to meet on July 18 in Moscow. Russia, Syria’s main ally, has firmly resisted any form of outside pressure on al-Assad to step aside.
The United States’ top intelligence chief paid an unannounced two-day visit to Ankara to discuss deepening instability in Syria and the joint fight against terrorism.
David Petraeus, chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), held meetings with top Turkish officials both yesterday and on March 12, the Hürriyet Daily News learned.
Petraeus met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday and his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the previous day. The visit is Petraeus’ second to Ankara since he was appointed CIA chief last July.
According to Prime Ministry officials, Erdoğan and Petraeus exchanged views on the ongoing crisis in Syria while also discussing the joint battle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The officials further discussed an intelligence-sharing mechanism launched in 2007.
Petraeus’ visit coincided with that of Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League’s special envoy to Syria.
Though both officials stayed in the same hotel in Ankara, there was no confirmation of a potential meeting between the two.
Annan, who is trying to push the Syrian leadership to end its measures against anti-government rebels, is the latest international figure to have met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Ankara has claimed it will have sole responsibility for the routes and missions of four US Predator drones deployed to an air base in southeastern Turkey last month to help with efforts to track down and gather intelligence on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists. The drones in Turkey will be operational after those in Iraq take off for their last mission on Nov. 22.
“In line with the US plan to pull out of Iraq, Predators will fly for the last time from Iraq on Nov. 22; from then onwards the four predators currently based in Turkey will be taking over surveillance missions,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying on Saturday.
The foreign minister’s words came following media reports that the US had deployed four drones in Turkey. He confirmed that two of the Predators were already based at İncirlik Air Base in Adana and would be taking up surveillance in a timely manner so as not to leave any gaps after US forces leave Iraq. “The data provided by those predators will be shared in real time by a unit in Turkey and the routes for the Predators will be determined solely by the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] and our military officials,” Davutoğlu said, brushing off speculation that the US might remain in charge of the drones’ operations after they are based in Turkey.
The foreign minister clarified it was Turkey that requested the continuation of drone surveillance after the US pullout as the country has greatly benefited from data obtained by the unmanned aerial vehicles in its fight against the PKK. Any gap in the gathering of intelligence by the drones could endanger Turkish forces, which often experience ambush attacks from the PKK. The timely deployment of the Predators before the US concludes its flights in Iraq is expected to enable the surveillance to go uninterrupted.
The four US drones arrived at İncirlik in late October, the Taraf daily reported on Friday, as it claimed that their deployment happened days before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed a request to purchase drones to be used in the fight against the PKK with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the recent G-20 summit in Paris.
The deployment of the US drones in Turkish territory is separate from the request to purchase drones from the US. In September The Washington Post reported that Turkey sought the deployment of a fleet of US drones in its territory as a measure against the PKK following the US withdrawal from Iraq. Later in September Erdoğan said the US had agreed in principle to the Turkish request to deploy its drones on Turkish soil. In addition to hosting the US drones Turkey also intends to buy its own armed drones from the US. Turkey is seeking to purchase MQ-9 Reapers, a larger and more modern version of the Predator.
Taraf reported that the drones would be used to monitor the PKK’s movements but they would not provide real-time data from their surveillance flights for Turkish authorities, and data from the drones’ flights would be sent to the US before reaching Turkish officials. Davutoğlu brushed off this claim by saying that Turkish personnel would be involved first-hand in the command of the flights and the intelligence gathered would be delivered to Turkish authorities without any delays.
UAV pieces in fishing net on Turkish shore spark Heron controversy
Pieces of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that were found in a fisherman’s net on the southern coast of Turkey have sparked a controversy as they might belong to a Heron, a trademark piece of equipment from the Israeli military that is used to gather intelligence, giving way to speculation that Israel might be conducting surveillance missions over Turkey, which maintains a closed airspace to Israeli military planes.
Media reports on the discovery of debris from an UAV by fishermen fishing close to the southern coastline of Turkey’s Mersin province stirred controversy over the weekend as some media outlets reported that the pieces belonged to Israeli Herons and not to US Predators. Turkey’s airspace is closed to the Israeli air force ever since the countries entered a bitter phase in their relations in the aftermath of last year’s bloody raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid ship that not only claimed the lives of nine peace activists, but also caused Turkey to slam Israel with sanctions, freezing military agreements and downgrading the level of diplomatic contact sharply.
On the same night of the flotilla raid, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) assaulted the İskenderun Naval Base, where seven Turkish security personnel were killed. Turkish officials at the time reacted to the timing of the assaults as being “significant” in the sense that it might reveal cooperation between the PKK and Israel, the Cihan news agency reported on Saturday. More than a year after the assault, the piece of an UAV fueled allegations of such a cooperation and raised questions whether Herons may have actually gathered information on the İskenderun base and relayed it to the PKK to enable the attack, Cihan reported.
The piece from the vehicle was reportedly brought to the General Staff headquarters in Ankara for further investigation, as local authorities said they did not know for sure how the piece may have gotten to the Turkish shore. It is also speculated that the piece might have been carried by the waves across the Mediterranean before reaching the Turkish coast, but details on the exact location or time of the discovery remain unclear.
The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and security forces will receive an additional $6 billion for the defense industry support fund provided by the government, which is a serious step toward Turkish intelligence reaching world standards, a high ranked official told Today’s Zaman.
Of this amount, $1.5 billion is already included in the support fund, while $4.5 billion is in the treasury to be used at a later time. The government has been taking important steps lately to fight terrorism and increase the efficiency of domestic and international intelligence. Previously, the support fund was only used by the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) to make military purchases, but with a change in the SSM act, the fund is now available to MİT and security forces as well.
The change was published in the Official Gazette following the approval of the SSM proposal by Ministry of Defense and the prime minister. According to the change, urgent security and intelligence needs will be covered through the fund; thus funds available to these agencies has been increased.
Government officials find the change very important because the budget of MİT was around $400 million compared to the $54 billion the US government provides to its 16 intelligence agencies.
03 November 2011, Thursday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL
Turkey needs to acquire more and smaller unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to prevent large-scale attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against Turkish military units near the borders with Iraq and Iran, several defense analysts said yesterday.
“Although there is no formal decision taken at this point, this probably will be the decision to be taken by the Turkish government,” said one procurement official speaking on condition of anonymity.
In the worst attack in the past 18 years, at least two dozen Turkish soldiers were killed and many others were injured when the PKK attacked the military in southeastern Turkey on Oct. 19.
The attack took place near the Çukurca district in an area bordering Iraq and Iran. After the deadly PKK attack, dozens of Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft bombed supposed PKK targets inside Turkey and in northern Iraq in retaliation, media said.
“I am talking about small- or medium-sized unmanned aerial vehicles that should be assigned to specific military units or border posts. These platforms are dirt cheap, but save a lot of lives,” one defense analyst said.
“The United States lost up to 7,000 small UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past 10 years, but saved a countless number of lives. These small unmanned aircraft let you know about approaching enemies and you take your measures. If, in the meantime, you lose the drones, you deploy new ones,” the analyst said.
“One solution is that you buy hundreds of tactical mini UAVs and equip independent units and garrisons with them. Also using [the military electronic company] Aselsan’s ARS-2000 Army Surveillance Radars and good networking, you can stop such attacks,” the defense analyst said.
The local Bayraktar company has successfully tried its Çaldıran, a tactical UAV, flying at a maximum altitude of 5,486 meters, as well as Mini UAVs and hand-held UAVs, which fly at altitudes between 610 and 1,520 meters and are produced by multiple local sources.
Higher-altitude missions are conducted by larger UAVs, namely the medium-altitude, long-endurance drones, or MALE UAVs. Turkey’s fleet of MALE UAVs used over the country’s southeast presently includes up to nine IAI Herons that were bought from Israel last year. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last month that the country would acquire the MQ-1 Predator drones the U.S. operates in Iraq.
Domestic efforts by Turkish Aerospace Industries to make the Anka drone have faltered, with the vehicle crash-landing in all three test flights since last year. The Heron, the Predator and the Anka all are medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) platforms operating at a maximum altitude of 9,144 meters for around 24 hours.
“Operating a UAV properly is like finding a needle in a haystack. The operator should be very skillful and lucky, because a UAV is like an eye seeing a specific development at a very specific location. And the network should operate precisely and on time,” said one defense analyst here.
“You need to look at the right place at the right time to find what you’re looking for,” he said.
“The U.S. government employs thousands of people to operate UAVs in Afghanistan. You have hundreds of hours of UAV footage daily received from dozens of vehicles, and probably only two minutes at a specific location has valuable information,” the defense analyst said. “You have to find it out and on time or you’ll miss your chances to act promptly.”
“In the short term we’ll be hiring more people for using the vehicles and analyzing and processing the data. In the longer term we’ll both boost our drones and our capabilities of process and analysis,” the procurement official said. “You need to both improve the size of your UAV fleet and at the same time your analysis assets,” the analyst said.
Since 2007 the U.S. also has been providing electronic intelligence over northern Iraq obtained from Predators to the Turkish military, whose Air Force has bombed the PKK’s headquarters in the Kandil Mountains many times in recent years based on that information.
“We’ve definitely decided to do whatever we can to make a better use of our unmanned capabilities. This is the number-one issue in the fight against the PKK,” said the procurement official.