Turkey cold to hosting U.S. intelligence command center

The US’s total pullout from Iraq in December of this year has prompted the intensification of secret negotiations between Turkey and the US over the fate of Washington’s supply of real time intelligence to Ankara since November 2007. The US’s transfer of real time intelligence to Ankara has been critical in pinpointing the targets of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants accurately in northern Iraq. Using real time intelligence, Turkish jets orchestrated strikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq mainly until 2009, the year that Ankara launched a policy of seeking resolution of the decades-long Kurdish dispute through non-military means with the intention of reducing PKK violence.

Meanwhile, this writer is not for the continuation of the intense armed struggle against the PKK and instead supports non-military means in ending the war with the PKK as well as a political solution to the decades-long Kurdish question. But the Turkish government appears not to have fully installed its democratic control over its highly politicized armed forces, which means that Ankara will continue getting US real time intelligence support concerning PKK activities in northern Iraq for some time to come. So I have to share with readers the ongoing, behind the doors, negotiations between Turkey and the US over the fate of the real time intelligence supply.

The US has been gathering real time intelligence on the PKK in northern Iraq via Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), U2 spy planes and satellites.

The total US withdrawal from Iraq in December of this year will also mean that Washington has to pull out its intelligence assets deployed in this country, too. Since the command center of real time intelligence information transferred to Turkey is based in Iraq, the US has to terminate this command center as well. It will also mean the termination of the US’s supply of real time intelligence to Turkey. To overcome this problem, the US has proposed the creation of a real time intelligence command center in either Diyarbakır or Batman province in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern parts of Turkey. But Ankara reportedly was cool to that proposal due to concerns of sovereignty. This is despite the fact that the purpose of the US’s transfer of real time intelligence has been to support Turkey in its fight against the PKK in northern Iraq, posing a threat directly to Ankara.

Since Turkey has been open to hosting a command center for US real time intelligence assets, Washington has proposed not activating the systems — if the command center will be based in either Diyarbakır or Batman — before the systems are out of Turkey. In other words, the intelligence systems will become operational only in northern Iraqi territory, and not on Turkish soil. Ankara is understood to have rejected that offer, too.

The third alternative has been to seek Iraqi permission once the US forces withdraw from this country to maintain the real time intelligence command center in Bagdad. But the Iraqi government, which will come under Iraqi Kurdish pressure, is highly unlikely to allow the command center to continue functioning in its territory.

The total US pullout agreement signed with Iraq also envisages the handover of Iraqi airspace to the Iraqi government as well as a prohibition on Iraqi territory being used for staging assaults on neighboring countries. Since this agreement makes the Iraqi government responsible for preventing PKK infiltrations into Turkey via northern Iraq (this is despite the fact that PKK militants continue to infiltrate Turkey via northern Iraq) it also means that no country can stage assaults in Iraq. Thus, Turkey cannot send fighters in to Iraq to pursue the PKK.

Even if we suppose that Iraq will allow a real time intelligence command center to be maintained in Iraq, this will not solve the critical problem of the danger of “deconfliction.” Iraq does not have the capacity to prevent deconfliction of, for example, Turkish and other military as well as civilian aircraft flying in northern Iraq.

In the final analysis, uncertainties over the fate of the continuation of US real time intelligence to Turkey once the US finally pulls out all its forces in Iraq in December of this year are still there, pending resolution.

But I wish that all Turkish political actors would realize soon how pivotal a resolution to the Kurdish dispute is for Turkish normalization and democratization and that they will all find a common ground to solve this problem through non-military means. Then there will be no need for the US supply of intelligence.

Lale Kemal, TZ

Israel’s Military Attache Was ‘Industrial Spy’: Russia

Russia expelled Israel’s military attache at its Moscow embassy because he engaged in industrial espionage, an unnamed secret service official told the state RIA Novosti news agency on May 19.

The source said air force Col. Vadim Leiderman helped Israeli companies with links to the military illegally obtain sensitive technology from Russia.

“As far as Colonel Leiderman’s detention is concerned, this deals entirely with industrial espionage – or rather, his overly active work on behalf of certain Israeli companies on the Russian market,” the security source said.

Israel’s Haaretz daily said the Soviet-born Leiderman’s detention was the first incident of its kind to occur between the two countries in nearly two decades.

The Israel Defence Forces said Leiderman had been briefly detained last week and then given short notice to leave Moscow. He is currently believed to be in Israel.

“Security authorities in Israel completed a thorough investigation and concluded that these (spying) claims were unfounded,” the Israeli defense ministry said.

Israel’s state-run Channel One television said Leiderman was arrested in apparent breach of his diplomatic immunity while sitting at a cafe.

Russia and Israel enjoy close economic ties based on the Jewish state’s vast ex-Soviet diaspora.

But Russia is also a key arms supplier to the Arab world and continues to sell advanced missile systems to Syria that Israel fears make their way to the Shiite Hezbollah movement in neighboring Lebanon.

Moscow – AFP

China’s baby-steps towards becoming a global military power

Soldiers from the Chinese navy take part in an anti-piracy drill. (Photo: Reuters)

Chinese leaders espouse a doctrine of “non-interference” in other nations’ affairs and take every opportunity to reassure the watching world of its “peaceful rise”, notwithstanding its rapid military modernisation programmes.

However in the last 12 months China has crossed several significant milestones that analysts say mark a growing self-confidence that Chinese armed forces can now begin to match the country’s status as a rising economic super-power.

March 2011: China deploys one of its most advanced missile frigates, Xuzhou,   off the coast of Libya to assist in the evacuation of its nationals caught   up in the emerging civil war. China also deploys four Ilyushin Il-76   military planes to evacuate stranded citizens. Analysts point out that 20 years ago, in 1991, China had relied on the state-owned shipping company COSCO to evacuate citizens caught up in the implosion of Somalia.

March 2011: A Chinese missile frigate, Ma’Anshan, escorts a World Food Program   ship along the pirate-infested coast of Somalia in another milestone for the Chinese military. The deployment is hailed as evidence of China’s growing   willingness to shoulder international responsibilities.

September 2010: Chinese Air Force sends four H-6H bombers and two J-10   aircraft to take part a Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) exercise in   Kazakhstan. The aircraft return to base in China, but the “simulated   cross-border strikes” were the first by the Chinese Air Force,   according to the official Xinhua news agency. China sends four helicopters to the Pakistan province of Sindh  to assist flood victims, in what analysts say is the first active deployment of Chinese air forces helicopter assets overseas. The mission wins plaudits   for its logistical accomplishment.

October 2010: China sends several Russian-origin Su-27 fighter-jets to participate in a joint military exercise with Turkey, refueling in Iran en route. This was first ever such exercise with a NATO ally. Turkish media reports US anger over the decision to invite China.

The Telegraph

Israel Plans to Invest Additional $1 Billion in Iron Dome Defence System

Iron Dome batteries succeeded in intercepting two rockets in April.

The successful interception of two rockets fired at the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon in early April by the Iron Dome short-range missile defence system has been a key milestone for the system’s implementation. As defpro.com reported in April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented after the system’s first operational use: “We have deployed [the Iron Dome batteries] in the last two weeks without actually testing them in laboratory conditions… [and] they have so far worked very well”[1].

Although Israeli officials repeatedly emphasise that the system has limitations and cannot provide overall protection, Iron Dome’s first operational success has convinced the government. In an interview with the daily Haaretz newspaper published on Monday, Israeli Defence Ministry director-general Major General Udi Shani confirmed that the country plans to invest approximately $1 billion in the system’s continued development and in the production of additional batteries.

“We are talking about (having) 10-15 Iron Dome batteries. We will invest nearly $1 billion in this. This is the goal, in addition to the $205 million that the US government has authorised,” Shani told the Israeli newspaper.[2] This will support Israel’s effort to deploy a multi-layered missile shield against a variety of threats. This approach further includes the US-Israeli Arrow Mark III development project for a long-range ballistic missile defence (BMD) system and Rafael’s David’s Sling (or Magic Wand) medium-range system. According to Shani, the latter will be equally funded with another $1 billion over the next five years and is scheduled to become operational by 2012.

Shani further explained that the US funding covers four additional batteries. The exact number of batteries ordered from Haifa-based manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd will depend upon the chosen “mix” of batteries and interceptor missiles within the multi-layered missile defence concept. However, Shani emphasised that, despite the still ongoing development and trial process, first procurement contracts are intended to be awarded “within a few months.”

Rafael develops and manufactures the Iron Dome elements in collaboration with ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of the Israel Aerospace Industry, as well as the IDF. The system comprises a radar system built by ELTA, a control center, and interceptor missile batteries built by Rafael. The interceptor missile, dubbed Tamir, is equipped with electro-optic sensors and several steering fins, offering high manoeuvrability. Each interceptor is estimated to cost between $35,000 to $50,000.

The Iron Dome radar detects and identifies incoming rocket or artillery shell launches and monitors their trajectory. The target data is transmitted to the Battle Management & Weapon Control (BMC) for processing. The threat’s trajectory is then analysed and the expected impact point can be determined. If the estimated rocket trajectory represents a critical threat, a command is given within a fraction of a second and an interceptor is launched against the threat. The interceptor receives constant trajectory updates from the BMC via uplink communications, approaches the target and then uses its radar seeker to acquire the target and guide itself within passing distance of the target. The threat is then eliminated in mid-air, well away from the protected area.

The expensive missile defence system might also pour foreign money into Rafael’s coffers in the upcoming years, as the Israeli defence official confirmed that there is foreign interest in the system. Five countries have expressed their interest in Iron Dome since its first successful operational use in early April, according to Shani.


Turkey-US to build satellites for Mideast market

Turkey’s top aerospace company and the Sierra Nevada Corporation, or SNC, a United States’ satellite company owned by a Turkish American, have agreed to cooperate to jointly make satellites for Middle Eastern companies, officials from both firms told the Hürriyet Daily News on Wednesday.

“I think we can do lots of business in this area,” said Muharrem Dörtkaşlı, general manager of Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI. “Sierra Nevada has all the qualities we seek.”

“We selected a Gulf country to focus our efforts toward to make satellites for Middle Eastern countries,” Fatih Özmen, president and chief executive of SNC, on the sidelines of the International Defense Industry Fair, or IDEF, 2011, Turkey’s most major defense fair held bi-annually.

“We believe we will benefit a lot in the region if we collaborate and work together,” Özmen said.

SNC is an electronic systems provider and systems integrator specializing in micro-satellites, energy, telemedicine, nanotechnology and commercial orbital transportation services. The company contracts with the U.S. military, NASA and private space flight companies. The company is headquartered in Sparks, Nevada.  TAI in recent years bolstered its satellite and space-related works, as the second-largest Turkish defense company.

TAI also takes part in the construction of Turkey’s first military satellite, the Gökturk, a program led by Italy’s Telespazio.

Istanbul – HDN

T129 ATAK program right on schedule

The first of three prototypes built in Turkey, P6, will start ground tests by the end of May and flight tests in mid-2011. These aircraft will feature the final Turkish avionics configuration and indigenous weapons suite.

Project officials are confident that the crash of an A129 Mangusta attack helicopter in March 2010 has caused no delay to the Turkish T129 Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter (ATAK) programme.

Speaking to Shephard at the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul, representatives of the companies overseeing the various elements of the project were adamant that development was progressing as per the originally agreed schedule.

The Turkish Land Forces Command will receive 51 T129 helicopters from 2013, with the aircraft jointly produced in Turkey by Turkish Aerospace Industries and AgustaWestland, with Aselsan providing the electronics, forward-looking infrared sensor, cockpit avionics and mission computer, and Roketsan the weapons system.

While the cause of the crash is still under investigation, an industry source said it was a ‘very specific event’ related to the individual aircraft, which had been heavily used in recent years.

The aircraft was described as an ‘international prototype’ by AgustaWestland – as opposed to a T129 prototype – and was replaced by a loaned Italian Army Mangusta for the early configuration trials.

However, the company claims the crash had no effect on the three Turkish-specific T129 prototypes developed in Italy, which are currently flying in preparation for certification activities.

The first of three prototypes built in Turkey, P6, will start ground tests by the end of May and flight tests in mid-2011. These aircraft will feature the final Turkish avionics configuration and weapons suite.

At IDEF, Aselsan displayed the T129 mock-up it is using for systems integration trials and showcased the capabilities of the aircraft’s AselFLIR-300T thermal imaging and targeting system working together with the AVCI Helmet Integrated Cueing System (HICS). A spokesman for the company said that as the system employs cockpit cameras for head tracking, the T129 model had been essential in integrating the HICS with the platform.

Aselsan is developing all the mission software and applications, ensuring the source codes are retained domestically, and is designing the package around the DO178B standard, according to the spokesman.

Meanwhile, the first delivery of nine early supplemental A129 helicopters to the TLFC remains on track for 2012.

TAI test pilot Gökahn Korkmaztürk said the aircraft have been ordered to fill operational needs in the near term and feature a simpler weapons suite, non-Turkish avionics and less powerful engines.

‘The nine aircraft will have less capability in the engine, and some of the avionics and armaments systems but they will be upgraded in the long term. They won’t feature the anti-tank missiles, for example, but as they will be on operations in eastern Turkey this is not an issue,’

Korkmaztürk said the Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company CTS800-4A engine had been chosen for the full T129 ATAK aircraft due to the ‘hot and high’ conditions in the east of the country.

To highlight the demands in the mountainous region, he recounted an engagement he made as a Cobra attack helicopter pilot, firing a rocket at a target when he was at 13,000 feet.

‘US pilots asked me why I fired at such a height and whether it was because I was under attack but the target itself was at 12,000 feet. That’s how high we were.’

Istanbul – Tony Skinner, Shepherd

Turkey approves new directive on face and arm transplants

Turkish Health Minister approved a new directive on composite tissue transplants, a move which paves the way for face and arm transplants without special permission from the ministry, an official of the National Organ and Tissue Coordination Council said on Monday.

Under the directive approved by Health Minister Recep Akdag, high hospital charges of transplant surgery recipients will be paid by the Social Security Institution.

Professor Gultekin Suleymanlar, a member of Turkey’s National Organ and Tissue Coordination Council at Akdeniz University, told the AA that ministry’s directive included also all limb, tissue and visceral organ transplants.

“The new directive fills a significant gap in legislation,” Professor Suleymanlar said. “We no longer need special permission to perform such surgeries.”

The gap in legislation came up after Turkey’s first double arm transplant surgery performed last year by a group of doctors at Akdeniz University, who specialized on transplant surgeries.

In September 2010, Cihan Topal, a 28-year-old man, was given the hands of a 23-old-man who died in a car crash. Turkey has become the fifth European country where double arm transplant is possible after the surgery at Akdeniz University.

“We have now cleared the way for treatment of many handicapped people. This is a milestone,” Professor Suleymanlar said.


Turkey moves to centralize electronic surveillance

Streamlining Turkey’s intelligence operations and increasing cooperation between the country’s military and civilian intelligence gatherers is under way but will take as long as two years to complete, according to a senior security official.

A senior security official said over the weekend that the General Staff had agreed to a proposal from the civilian government to transfer the administration of the division to the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT.

“A protocol between the military top command and MİT was signed recently,” the official said. “The protocol orders that the military will completely abandon the [surveillance] garrison and the intelligence agency will take over.”

In a landmark move on March 8, Turkish authorities announced they were bringing the military’s electronic surveillance under the management and operational control of MİT, which effectively means a civilian control over such capabilities.

The official added that it could take up to two years before the takeover is complete. “MİT’s surveillance unit is a huge department, and it will take several months before these assets can be appropriately moved to the Bayrak garrison,” he said. “The entire technical infrastructure will be moved, the military and intelligence personnel will be oriented for work under the same roof, and all that means a couple of years before everything runs perfectly.”

During the Cold War, the Bayrak garrison in Gölbaşı, near Ankara, was established as the military’s top electronic surveillance and intelligence asset. Known as the military’s “ear,” the garrison operated under the command of the Turkish General Staff.

The garrison employs more than 50 civilian and well-trained personnel who also will be transferred to MİT’s disposition. It also operates two vessels for electronic surveillance; these too will be transferred to the intelligence agency.

Some of the garrison’s tasks included critical radio operations as well as interceptions. Meanwhile, MİT, which reports directly to the prime minister, has its own Electronic and Technical Intelligence Unit, or ETI. The security official said ETI would completely move to the Bayrak garrison, together with its personnel and intelligence-gathering assets. “The protocol means that MİT’s ETI will take over the control of the military’s main intelligence-gathering and interception unit,” he said.

Cutting costs

A military official said the transfer and takeover is the result of lengthy deliberations that led to the idea that running a separate electronic intelligence unit meant duplication, overlapping and unnecessary costs for the military.

“We trust that MİT will run the garrison as efficiently as the military, and a centralized unit will mean savings in an extremely costly work,” he said. “MİT has the capabilities to perform all kinds of electronic surveillance duties. It would have been a waste of resources if we ran a separate network for the same purpose.”

The security official said the new system would make sure that the military collects intelligence from MİT. “MİT has several clients, and now the military is on the list. In a way, for the military, this is outsourcing for better efficiency,” he said.

“In any case, both institutions work for a single goal. Single-source intelligence gathering for military and/or nonmilitary intelligence purposes will not hinder efforts for the common goal,” the security official said.

The Bayrak garrison is not the Turkish military’s only intelligence asset. The General Staff also will rely on a soon-to-be operational military satellite, the country’s first, for intelligence-gathering missions. Under present provisions, the Gokturk military satellite will remain under the General Staff’s control.

Turkey two years ago signed a nearly $345 million contract with the Italy-based Telespazio for the construction of Gökturk, which is scheduled to be launched in 2013. The Italian defense giant Finmeccanica owns 67 percent of Telespazio, and the rest of the shares belong to France’s Thales.

Umit Enginsoy, HDN

Azerbaijani serviceman killed as Armenians violated ceasefire

Azerbaijani serviceman was killed as Armenian Armed Forces violated ceasefire.

The incident happened on the line of contact near Ashagi Abdurrahmanli village of Fuzuli region. Azerbaijani serviceman Samir Hidayat Agayev was killed as Armenian servicemen violated ceasefire.

Samir Agayev, 25, was drafted from Tovuz region. He has been buried in his native Yukhari Oysuzlu village of Tovuz region today.

Azerbaijani Defense Ministry’s press service confirmed the report to APA.


Turkish spy satellite program on track despite Israeli opposition

The Italy-based maker of Turkey’s first planned military satellite said late Thursday that the construction of the Göktürk satellite is continuing on track, with a scheduled launch in 2013, despite objections raised by Israel against the device’s operational capabilities.

Relations between former allies Israel and Turkey have been at their nadir since last May, when Israeli commandos raided a Turkish-led aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, killing nine activists on board one of the ships. The Göktürk satellite has become the latest dispute between the two new adversaries.

Telespazio, a joint venture between Italy’s defense giant Finmeccanica and France’s Thales, a couple of years ago signed a deal worth nearly 250 million euros for the Turkish military satellite. Finmeccanica has a 67 percent stake in Telespazio, one of the world’s leading operators in satellite management services.

In a written statement sent to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, Telespazio, prime contractor of Turkey’s Gökürk Earth observation program, said, “The Göktürk satellite is manufactured in France by Thales Alenia Space, a Thales/Finmeccanica company, using state of the art technology for the high resolution optical sensor.”

It said, “Göktürk is on track for a launch window in line with contractual requirements.” Later a Telespazio official told Hürriyet Daily News that the satellite is scheduled to be launched into space in 2013, in line with the contract’s provisions.

Asked by the Daily News if the satellite would meet the contractual specifications, the official said: “Yes, of course. The satellite is being designed to meet the customer’s operational requirements.”

Israeli objections

Israel opposes the project. “We try to ensure that we are not photographed at high resolutions and most countries accommodate us,” Reuters earlier this week quoted a senior Israeli defense official as saying. “Should we request this of the Turks? We won’t ask for it. There is no one to talk to.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dismissed security concerns voiced by Israel over the planned launch of Turkey’s first spy satellite. “Some people are disturbed by this. They say: ‘Turkey will watch us from space in the future’. You have been watching us for many years, decades,” Erdoğan said March 11.

The Göktürk satellite will ease Turkey’s reliance on U.S. intelligence in its operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. Turkey in recent years has used U.S. electronic intelligence in targeting the group’s headquarters and training facilities in cross-border raids.

A senior Finmeccanica official earlier said his company also would seek to win a Turkish contract for the next military satellite. “The next satellite program involves a payload comprising a synthetic aperture radar, and the Finmeccanica Group companies will be even more competitive than in the past,” Paolo Pozzessere, Finmeccanica’s commercial director, told the Daily News.

Finmeccanica has been increasingly active in Turkey in recent years. AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica subsidiary, which already has signed a multibillion-dollar contract to jointly produce 60 T129 attack helicopters for the Turkish army, also competes with the U.S. Sikorsky Aircraft in Turkey’s ongoing utility helicopter program.

MBDA, a Finmeccanica-related company is in competition with U.S., Russian and Chinese rivals for Turkey’s multibillion-dollar program to acquire long-range air and missile defense systems. Also Finmeccanica’s aircraft firms seek to develop military planes with Turkey.