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

Qatar buys coast guard boats from Antalya’s Ares

ares75Turkey and Qatar strengthened their relations in a recent agreement in which Qatar’s coast guard pledged to purchase 17 high-speed boats from Antalya-based Ares Shipyard Ltd.

The agreement was signed March 26th at the fourth Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference. According to the deal, Qatar will buy two 46-metre vessels, 10 33-metre vessels and five 23-metre boats.

“We can say that the contract is the biggest one for the military ships category in the region,” said Kerim Kalafatoglu, managing director of Ares Shipyard.

Ares Business Development Manager Stephen Layton told Southeast European Times (SETimes) that the deal will create a number of jobs at the company.

Ares will be adapting designs of its existing boats to meet Qatar’s specifications and plans to deliver them within 56 months, he said.

Relations between Qatar and Turkey, which have become among the most stable in the Middle East, improved even further with the latest agreement, analysts told SETimes.

“This is a very significant achievement for Turkey’s defence sector,” said Maj. Gen. Armagan Kuloglu, who is retired from the Turkish armed forces.

Kuloglu told SETimes that the agreement would not only boost bilateral relations but also would open the doors to co-operation between Turkey and other countries in the region.

“Qatar’s order could be an example for other Gulf countries to give similar orders to Turkey,” he said.

Saban Kardas, the director of Ankara-based think tank Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), said, “We have been witnessing very close co-operation of the two countries in many areas for a long time.”

Ankara and Doha have pursued similar policies regarding international matters, particularly in the conflicts in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and they followed joint conciliation efforts for the settlement of regional disputes, he said.

During the Arab Spring the two countries shared a similar point of view and acted together, Kardas said.

In addition to their co-operation in the international arena, Qatar takes the lead among other Gulf countries in developing economic and military relations with Turkey, Kuloglu said.

“Military Electronic Industries (Aselsan) and software and systems company Informatics and System House of Turkey (Havelsan) both have been working on joint projects in military software field,” Kuloglu said.

Kardas said the agreement between Turkey and Qatar should improve military relations.

“When a country buys a military system from abroad, it is inevitable that it would take trainings and participate in joint military exercises with that country,” he said.

Improved Turkey-Qatar relations

In a statement posted to its website, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said that “significant progress has been achieved in recent years with regards to the relations between Turkey and Qatar”.

Between 2008 and 2011, high-level visits between the two countries intensified, the ministry said.

“These visits have deepened and further developed the bilateral relations,” the statement said, adding that economically, Turkey has made it a priority to attract foreign investment and capital from Qatar.

In February, Qatar Minister of Economy and Trade Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said Qatari-Turkish ties are witnessing a major boom.

Growth in bilateral relations increased trade volume between the two countries to nearly $1 billion in 2013, he said at the conclusion of a Doha meeting of the Qatari-Turkish Committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation.

Conference specifics

The Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference drew representatives from 25 prominent Turkish firms, including Aselsan, Havelsan, Roketsan, Turkish Aerospace Industries, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, and Middle East Technical University.

Participants exhibited a variety of military products: tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles, specialised textiles, armaments and munitions, missiles and rocketry, advanced defence electronics, and products in the aerospace technology and naval shipbuilding fields.

Al-shorfa

THK reluctantly accepts 1st A400M in Kayseri

The first of 10 Airbus Military A400M transport aircrafts that Turkey has ordered was finally delivered to the Turkish Air Forces (THK) on Wednesday following Airbus’ assurances that contract terms will be fully met regarding spare parts.

The A400M, which is the largest transport aircraft in the world, landed at a military base in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri on Wednesday. Turkey is expected to receive another A400M this year.

Turkey has ordered at least 10 of the next-generation military transport aircraft from Airbus Military. The long-awaited tactical airlifter has seen a series of delays and budget hikes.

The first test flight of the received A400M was held at Etimesgut Air Base in Ankara and the second took place at the 12th Military Airbase Command in Kayseri province in July 2013. The A400M was designed for military use but can also serve civilian purposes.

The high-tech A400M can cover large distances in a short period of time and is highly maneuverable. Turkey has been working with France during the A400M’s production phase.

TZ

Turkey Approves Controversial Spy Agency Bill

Turkey’s parliament has approved a bill that increases the powers and immunities of the country’s spy agency. It’s the latest in a string of moves critics say is undermining democracy in the country that is a candidate to join the European Union.

The bill, approved Thursday, would give Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency the ability to launch covert operations and increased capacity to keep tabs on citizens. It would also introduce prison terms for the publication of secret documents.

The government insists the overhaul will make the agency more efficient and allow it to meet “new security and foreign policy needs.”

Opposition parties say the bill grants the agency far reaching powers and will turn Turkey into a surveillance state. It has vowed to seek its cancellation at Turkey’s highest court.

AP

Turkish, Greek jets back at “war” after 2 years

Turkish and Greek fighter jets engaged in a mid-air dogfight over the Aegean Sea twice on April 15 in a first since January 2012, Greek media has reported.

According to the reports based on Greek military sources, four F-16s belonging to the Turkish Air Force approached the Semadirek (Samothraki) Island before the first dogfight. Four Greek F-16s took off “to locate and prevent” the Turkish aircraft. Sides faced off against each other north of Samothraki, as well as southwest of Limni (Limnos) Island.

The official website of the Turkish General Staff did not list any violations or dogfights for April 15.

Greece unilaterally claims 10 nautical miles (19 km) of airspace, as opposed to the six miles of territorial waters, as Turkey and other NATO countries accept. Athens considers any unauthorized flight in the airspace from six to 10 miles in the Aegean a “violation.”

Dogfights between Turkish and Greek aircraft over the Aegean Sea had significantly decreased due to the economic crisis Athens is struggling with.

HDN

Turkey to train Malaysia in electronic warfare

Turkey has offered a helping hand to Malaysia in the field of electronic warfare after Malaysian telecommunications company Impressive Communications penned a deal with Turkey’s defense industry manufacturer HAVELSAN.

According to a statment from HAVELSAN, Turkish experts will be training Malaysian engineering students in electronic warfare technologies to provide solutions to the Malaysian Armed Forces.

HAVELSAN, which is partly owned by a Turkish Armed Forces-linked foundation, has a long history in training defense and communications industries in Turkey and other countries in military software systems.

Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Iraq are among the countries to benefit from the program.

WB

US internal politics hinder arming of key allies

A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-US Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24.
A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-US Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24.

The US Navy’s frigate force is rapidly shrinking as the 1980s-era ships are taken out of service. The Navy wants to transfer the ships to friendly nations for further service, and several nations are eager to have them.

But in recent years, congressional politics have made some of the proposed moves overly controversial, and measures to approve the transfers have run afoul of partisan politics, particularly where Turkey and Pakistan are concerned.

But on April 7, the House passed a bill approving the transfer of eight frigates — four to Taiwan, two to Thailand and two to Mexico. Two of the ships named in the bill already have left service, with the other six set to leave the US fleet in 2015.

The bill now lies with the Senate, where it might have come to a vote before the body adjourned for a two-week recess. As of April 10, however, it appeared the opportunity for quick action would pass, leaving the measure to be taken up at a later date.

The House-sponsored bill eliminated a Senate bill introduced in November that included the same ships, plus three more for Pakistan — along with a series of conditions that country has recoiled from meeting.

Forces in the Senate have balked as well at providing Pakistan with the ships, and a hold — reportedly from Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky., — has been placed on the bill.

Similar squabbles led to another frigate transfer bill dying with the previous Congress. That bill would have provided more frigates for Turkey, which already operates eight ex-US frigates.

The latest House bill avoids those questions and centers the move on Taiwan.

“The transfer to Taiwan of retired US Navy frigates is an important part of the US commitment to Taiwan’s security,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “The administration and Congress must continue to find ways to enhance Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities.”

The bill would only approve a ship’s transfer should the specified nation and the US reach agreement. It does not indicate such a move is a done deal.

DefenseNews

Turkish defence industry struggles to go global

Turkey’s defense industry exports have largely been possible through offset arrangements made with foreign arms suppliers. Defense offset agreements, as legal trading practices in the aerospace and military industries, are widely used by many countries as a means of bringing some of the foreign currency going abroad back to the country through arms procurement deals to strengthen local industries through a work share to be given to local companies in a defense project. Yet Turkey’s heavy reliance on offset arrangements in its defense exports, among other things, is hindering its defense industry companies from becoming globally competitive companies.

It is difficult to say that Turkey has used offset commitments in a rational manner to build a stronger local defense industry base. Instead, offset commitments pledged by foreign contractors are sometimes realized in areas such as building additional military headquarters within military compounds instead of focusing on creating technology-based infrastructure.

In essence, offset agreements are protectionist and distort competition.

Hence, any country that receives defense offset commitments must govern these pledges in a transparent and rational manner, minimizing the effects of protectionism, which hinders defense companies from competing at a global level.

Turkey has not yet been able to utilize offset pledges made by foreign contractors to strengthen its defense industry base through the production of critical military technologies despite some of the efforts to this end which have been under way lately.

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz emphasized in a November 2013 speech the importance of offset arrangements with foreign contractors for the development of local industries and for the industry to receive work share as well as for defense exports.

According to figures he released, Turkey’s total defense and aerospace turnover reached $4.75 billion as of 2012 while its exports exceeded $1.26 billion.

Turkey’s exports, however, would have been well below those figures stated above without its offset commitments with foreign arms suppliers.

At the end of the day, Turkish defense industry companies are only being fed with offset arrangements and are not encouraged through state policies to create an export industry based on high military technologies.

Turkish companies have been turning into monsters being fed by offsets instead of the country producing global companies.

As a matter of fact, according to a report released by the Turkish Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) on March 15, there were only five defense industry companies out of the 500 largest Turkish companies and only one defense company out of the 100 fastest growing Turkish companies.

One of the recipes for Turkey to create global defense industry companies is through the privatization of military-owned defense companies, including Aselsan, Roketsan and Havelsan as well as the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).

However, the government’s long-time plan to privatize a large portion of the nation’s defense industry companies and increase efficiency through new competitive bidding processes which could force the liquidation of firms that fail to compete faces opposition from the military. The privatization policy was intended to improve the efficiency of these military firms through downsizing and opening them up to competition.

The current unaccountable status of 18 Turkish military companies, whose shares are partly or fully owned by the Foundation to Strengthen the Turkish Armed Forces (TSKGV), stands as a big hurdle to privatization. Added to the problem is the absence of real will within the government to bring these companies under civilian oversight and to finally privatize them.

As a report released by Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in March of this year and written by Professor Nurhan Yentürk pointed out, these 18 military companies — whose military spending is not available either — operate according to the law for private commerce but are managed by public officials, namely the TSKGV’s board of trustees consisting of the defense minister, the deputy chief of General Staff and the undersecretary affiliated with the defense minister.

The government’s legislation from February of this year introducing non-defense commercial offset agreements — a practice that runs contrary to international free trade regulations — in the meantime, has the potential to cause a headache for Turkey in its international trade dealings.

It remains to be seen whether the government will finally implement a privatization plan for defense companies while facing serious accusations of corruption and bribery, some of which are linked to the privatization process of civilian local companies.

Turkey to develop thermobaric warhead

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.

Turkey shoots down Syrian Mig

A pair of Turkish Air Force F-16s intercepted and shot down one of two Syrian Mig-23 type fighter aircraft after the aircraft violated Turkish Airspace, TR Defence sources confirmed on Sunday.

“Our F-16s went up in the air and shot that plane down. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, then from now on, our slap will be hard,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters at a campaign rally in Istanbul.

Syria’s state-controlled news agency SANA reported that the pilot successfully ejected and was quickly rescued.

The two Syrian Mig 23s flying north were spotted by Turkish radar and warned four times before entering Turkish airspace. One of them turned around but the other continued into Turkish airspace.  One of the Turkish F-16s engaged the Syrian Mig just inside the Turkish border with an AMRAAM radar-guided missile. The Syrian aircraft was hit and finally crashed about 1000 yards south of the Turkish-Syrian border.

Erdogan on Sunday congratulated the military for downing a Syrian warplane near its border and warned of a “heavy” response if its airspace was violated.

“I congratulate the chief of general staff, the armed forces and those honourable pilots… I congratulate our air forces,” said the premier.

Turkey toughened its rules of engagement toward Syria after Syria’s shooting down an unarmed Turkish F-4 Phantom over the Mediterranean Sea.  Turkish Air Force shut down a Syrian military transport helicopter last year, also for violating Turkish airspace.