STM inks cyber security agreement with ministry

Defense engineering, design and software powerhouse STM has inked a protocol with Turkey’s interior ministry with the scope of “Reviewing and Improving Existing Information Technology and Security Infrastructure”, TR Defence sources reported on April 21.

While the details of the protocol are not included in the report, the new agreement is likely part of the country’s wider, renewed efforts in improving its national information handling and storage systems following several prior high-profile leaks.

In one such event that took place in 2010, a database comprised of voter registration information was compromised, resulting in a leak involving millions of Turkish citizens’ names, addresses, basic family information and national identification numbers.

Rebel defeat in northern Syria cripples Turkey’s plans

It is no longer a secret that when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had his series of meetings with top American officials in Washington last month, he had a specific plan to kick DAESH out from northern Syria. Erdoğan tried to convince the American leadership to give another shot to Syrian Arab groups near Azaz and asked for intensified American logistics support and air cover for their offensives along the Turkish border. That was not a surprise because General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter were already publicly signaling a revival of the train-and-equip program for Turkey-backed Syrian groups. These groups would receive military training, including how to call in airstrikes on the enemy.

Ankara has used every way to make sure the U.S. would stick with the red lines imposed on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey preventing the PKK-linked YPG’s entrance to Manbij and Jarablous requires an alternative and the U.S. seemed cautiously open to Turkish proposals. As U.S. Secretary of State Jon Kerry said earlier this month, the U.S. still considers sealing the 145kilometers of the Turkish-Syrian border controlled by DAESH as a priority.

This is why the anti-DAESH coalition significantly increased its airstrikes and Turkish artillery fire around Azaz over the past two weeks, and the Syrian opposition seized the crucial town of al-Rai along the border. But the victory was short-lived since DAESH seized the area back and disgraced the Syrian rebels by burning refugee camps and even creating a new wave of refugees to Turkey. Meanwhile, the YPG in Afrin simultaneously continued to attack opposition-held territory and made sure the YPG has no intentions of brokering an alliance in the area with rebels.

Even worse, DAESH has begun to target Turkey’s border town of Kilis with Katyusha rockets, which has caused great harm on the civilian population. DAESH has targeted the town for the last two weeks and, as a result, five Syrian refugees, three of them children, and two Turkish citizens died while dozens of citizens were wounded.

Let’s face it, Ankara is backed into a tight corner with these developments. It cannot tolerate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) additional seizure of territory and it cannot transform weak rebels into a victorious force in a night either. And DAESH is still infiltrating into Turkey from across the border and targeting Turkish citizens and Syrian refugees. No problems are solved and U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, especially the pro-PYD officials, thinks their point is getting validated.

This is why we hear more American calls for a PKK cease-fire and a complete withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey to Syria and Iraq, because the U.S. believes the chances for a Turkish plan to succeed are not very high and pushing the PKK into its caves while it is aiding the fight against DAESH seems a calculated move.

The problem with this plan, however, is Ankara is still not giving up on its own plan. There is no other option for Ankara, which does not believe the PKK would abandon violence unless it is militarily defeated. The point is that Ankara tried to figure a way out regarding the PKK since 2009, and it has not worked. Now, a PKK affiliate ruling a large swathe of territory in Syria makes it even a lesser possibility that the PKK would return to the negotiating table.

If Washington is seriously planning to convince Ankara on this front, officials should make sure the PKK ends its violence at once and withdraws from Turkey without any preconditions. Maybe there might be some hope for this American adventure. Who knows?

Daily Sabah

Japanese stealth fighter goes airborne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Sabah

PKK: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

On July 11, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the PKK, issued a written statement to unilaterally end the two-year cease-fire citing public projects, including the construction of dams, in southeastern Turkey. Several days later, a member of the KCK Executive Committee called on PKK militants to take up arms against the Turkish state. Finally, PKK militants killed two civilians and two police officers under the pretext of retaliating against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) suicide attack on July 20. Four days later, Turkish F-16s started launching airstrikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq in an effort to push the organization to reinstate the cease-fire and withdraw of armed militants from Turkey as a first step toward disarmament. More than a few international media outlets, however, would like you to believe that the Turkish government, specifically President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, broke the cease-fire in order to help the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reclaim its parliamentary majority. Although there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim, more than a few reporters conveniently ignored the basic principles of journalism in order to pass off full-blown conspiracy theories as news.

It all began in 2011 when the Turkish government launched the Kurdish reconciliation process to sponsor public projects in the southeast and promote broader cultural rights for the Kurdish community. Despite paying lip service to the prospect of peace, the PKK seized the opportunity to stockpile weapons, recruit new members and draw out plans for future attacks, which enabled the organization, whose withdrawal from Turkey has been pending for two years, to perpetrate attacks with relative ease. Considering that the vast majority of Turkey’s Kurds continue to support the disarmament talks, it should be quite clear that the PKK not only disagrees with, but also ignores the demands of millions of Kurds for peace.

Believing that anyone with a basic sense of time can figure out that the PKK shot first, let us offer an often ignored yet quite crucial question: What exactly does the PKK aim to accomplish through violence? The government has already taken steps to promote Kurds’ cultural rights by forcing the authorities to deal with the Kurdish question through dialogue and democratization as opposed to violence. The fact that international journalists are too busy with softball interviews for the record does not relieve the PKK leadership of their responsibility to explain, without resorting to conspiracy theories, why they thought it was a good idea to turn their back on peace and started walking around guns blazing. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has neither been able to distance itself from terrorism and make a genuine effort to push for the PKK’s disarmament.

The real reason behind the PKK’s most recent attacks has been the understanding that they can translate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) territorial gains in northern Syria and international popularity into political momentum in Turkey. Moving forward, the PKK leadership aims to expand the conflict zone into residential areas and town centers in order to promote violence among the general population. In other words, the organization seeks to trigger an ethnic conflict, akin to the sectarian tensions across the Middle East, which will be fought at the grassroots level.

Daily Sabah believes that the rising tide of violence takes a disproportionate toll on the Kurdish community. Not only are many Kurds affected by terrorist attacks in their vicinity but the organization itself not infrequently launches direct attacks against Kurdish members of the security forces and civilians. In order to promote peace and stability in Turkey, bridging the development gap between the country’s various parts remains a must. The PKK, as such, must reinstate the cease-fire without further delay in order to continue negotiations with Turkish authorities and find meaningful alternatives to violence.

For weeks, the media and the international community have given the PKK a free pass citing the organization’s role in fighting ISIS. Another serious problem with the media coverage is that major news outlets tend to present Turkey’s ongoing military effort as a war against the Kurdish people, which simply does not reflect the truth. Excited by the PYD’s advances against ISIS in Syria, many observers seem to have forgotten that not only Turkey, but also the United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist organization. In the age of global terrorism, there is no room to play favorites.

Daily Sabah

Turkey cancels visa-free travel for Libyans

Turkey has cancelled visa-free travel for Libyan nationals, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

The 2009 agreement meant Turkey was one of the few countries Libyans could travel to without a visa.

Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç told journalists in Ankara that from Sept. 24 Libyans would need a visa to enter Turkey.

He said the decision was due to security concerns and political uncertainty in Libya.

“The removal of visa-free travel does not mean any change in Turkey’s approach towards the Libyan people,” Bilgiç said, adding Turkey would continue to support its “brother” Libyans.

Daily Sabah

Why Turkey May Not Buy Chinese Missile Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denise Der

Ukrainian military helicopter shot down in Slaviansk

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

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

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

 

Turkey, Moldova to deepen military cooperation

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

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

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

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

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

Bsanna News

Turkey hails deployment of monitoring mission in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McConnell Calls for US to Arm Ukraine

WASHINGTON — The US Senate’s top Republican on Thursday said America should send weapons to the Ukrainian military as that country teeters on the brink of war with Russia.

Russian forces continue to occupy Crimea in southern Ukraine, which Russia claims to have annexed. And pro-Russian forces and activists are stirring unrest in eastern Ukraine, which also is home to a large ethnic Russian population.

US officials and analysts say Moscow is behind the activity in eastern Ukraine with the aim of creating a scenario under which its forces would be sent to “protect” ethnic Russians. Moscow denies those charges.

The Obama administration has slapped economic sanctions on some individuals said to be capable of influencing Russian President Vladimir Putin. But European leaders have been reluctant to go further, and because Europe’s economy is more intertwined with Moscow’s, experts say the European Union’s help is essential to persuading Putin to stand down.

US officials say their options are limited, and so far have declined to send lethal weapons to Ukraine’s military out of fears of stoking an all-out war.

But Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says that should change — even amid reports of a deal between US, Ukrainian and Russian leaders to begin de-escalating the situation.

“Here is what I would do: I would be sending arms to the Ukrainian Army,” McConnell said Thursday during an interview with a Mt. Sterling, Ky., radio station. “I would encourage the European Union to expand and take in Ukraine … I would provide serious assistance to the Ukrainians so that they could defend themselves.”

McConnell wouldn’t stop there. He echoed other GOP lawmakers in saying Russia’s invasion of Crimea and alleged actions in eastern Ukraine show President Barack Obama’s decision to reverse his predecessor’s missile defense plans in Europe was a mistake.

“I would renew the discussions that the president just dropped, the idea of missile defense in the Czech Republic and Poland at the beginning of his term as a sort of gesture to the Russians,” McConnell said.

“I would re-engage with the Poles and the Czechs and see if we can’t get missile defense back in those countries. All of those steps would indicate without sending in a single American soldier that the US is serious in standing up to this kind of new form of Russian aggression.”

McConnell’s arms-to-Ukraine plan and call to erect the missile shield in Europe would, if enacted, be a boon for the American defense sector, which says it has been damaged by across-the-board budget cuts.

McConnell, a leading congressional critic of Obama who is locked in a tough re-election fight, blamed the US commander in chief for enabling Russia’s aggression.

“You are hard pressed to name a single place in the world where we are in better shape now than we were when he came to office,” McConnell said. “When you think of Syria, you think of the endless discussions with Iran. And so you got Vladimir Putin sitting there looking at that, a guy who believes that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the single biggest disaster, geopolitical disaster, of the previous century, who yearns to restore the empire, and he looks at American leadership and concludes that they won’t do anything.”

Richard Haas of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was a senior US national security official under President George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, wrote Wednesday that “Putin can be expected to continue to interfere in Ukraine for as long as he can — and so long as it serves his aim of strengthening his grip on power at home.

That means, Haas said, “Western policy should seek to frustrate this strategy.”

He says the US and its Western allies have options, but he did not call for American arms shipments to Kiev’s military.

Those options include strengthening Ukraine politically and economically, Haas contends. Washington and its partners also should implement new, tougher sanctions on Moscow that “target Russian financial institutions and limit what may be exported to Russia, and the US and EU should communicate their agreement on such sanctions to Putin, so that he understands the full price he will pay for destabilizing Ukraine.”

Haas also wrote that Putin’s actions should be a “wake-up call for NATO.”

“People and governments need to rid themselves of the comforting illusion that countries’ use of military force to acquire territory is an anachronism,” he wrote. “European defense spending and capacity needs to increase, as does America’s presence in select NATO countries, something that can be achieved even as the US increases its presence in Asia.”

DefenseNews