Sledgehammer arrests continue

(Ret) Gen. Çetin Doğan

Eighteen members of the military, including one retired officer, were detained yesterday in a second wave of raids in 13 provinces as part of an investigation into an alleged military coup plot named Balyoz (Sledgehammer). No official announcements were made initially, but news reports say those detained were mentioned as having been assigned roles in Sakal (Beard) and Çarşaf (Chador), two subplots included under the Sledgehammer plan.

The detentions follow operations on Monday in which 49 retired and active duty military officers were detained in the probe into Sledgehammer, which allegedly included plots to bomb mosques and down a Turkish jet. The names of the officers detained were not announced, but four are commissioned officers and 13 are NCOs, officials said. They were all flown to İstanbul for interrogation from the cities where they were detained. Early Friday morning, former 1st Army Commander retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, retired Gen. Engin Alan and retired Col. Altan Batıbay, who were among the 49 officers detained on Monday, were also interrogated by the prosecutors.

Doğan is accused of having written the Sledgehammer plot, with the prosecution saying that an authenticated signature belonging to him appears on the document. The outcome of their interrogation — whether they would be released pending trial or sent to jail — was not clear as of Friday evening.

Meanwhile, in other developments, a group of experts assigned by the 1st Army Command Military Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the Sledgehammer plan finished a month-long examination of the documents, concluding that they comprise the basics of a “coup d’état plan,” contrary to Gen. Doğan’s earlier defense that Sledgehammer only consisted of war strategy games. The military prosecutor’s office sent its conclusions to the Specially Authorized İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office.

Some had earlier claimed that the Sledgehammer plan was based on the Bayrak (Flag) Operation Plan prepared ahead of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. The military prosecutor’s office, which had received copies of the documents regarding the plan from the civilian prosecutors investigating the case, launched an investigation about a month ago. The civilian prosecutors obtained the documents from a correspondent at the Taraf daily, which first exposed the Sledgehammer plan. Meanwhile, all the original documents with authentic signatures, as well as CDs including voice recordings, were examined at Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) and the Police Department’s Criminology Unit labs. Monday’s operation was launched when the labs confirmed that the documents were authentic.

In initial remarks about the Sledgehammer plan after it was first exposed in various Turkish newspapers and television news shows, Doğan had dismissed the allegations, saying the plan was a regular war game based on worst-case scenarios, noting that he was against coups and that he was a believer in governments coming in and going out through legitimate means. He had accused his own accusers of starting a smear campaign.

Force commanders not arrested

Meanwhile, former force commanders Gen. İbrahim Fırtına, Adm. Özden Örnek and former 1st Army Commander retired Gen. Ergin Saygun were released after testifying to prosecutors yesterday as part of the Sledgehammer investigation. Former Naval Forces Commander retired Adm. Örnek and former Air Forces Commander retired Gen. Fırtına were released after testifying to prosecutors on Thursday, while retired Gen. Ergin Saygun was released by the court he had been referred to after his interrogation. The generals will, however, still stand trial as they all face charges of involvement in coup plans. The prosecutors released the force commanders on the grounds that they had no obvious intention of escaping trial.

More arrests came on Thursday as interrogations after Monday’s first wave of detentions continued. Retired Gen. Süha Tanyeri, the former head of the General Staff’s Strategic Research and Study Center (SAREM), Adm. Semih Çetin and Adm. Turgay Arduğ were arrested as Sledgehammer suspects. Tanyeri was placed in Metris Prison, while Çetin and Erdağ were sent to Hasdal Military Prison.

Sledgehammer coup plot

The discovery of a plot allegedly drafted by the military in 2003 and designed to topple the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) led to the detention of 49 active duty and retired members of the military on Monday. This was the largest crackdown ever carried out on the military.

News reports say prosecutors are directing a lengthy list of questions spanning 80 pages regarding the Sledgehammer plan at the detainees. The suspects were questioned on the location of the munitions they planned to use to carry out the plot, which allegedly included bombing mosques. The prosecutors also asked for the names of other collaborators, referred to in the documents about the alleged coup plan as the “chosen cadre.”

Another question on the list was about Oraj, or Thunderstorm, a subplot that included the deliberate downing of a Turkish jet over the Aegean in order to spark a conflict with Greece.

The Sledgehammer plan was allegedly drawn up in 2003 and discussed at a seminar held at the General Staff’s Selimiye barracks in March of that year. The suspects also had to respond to a question on the content of this seminar. Reports said the prosecutors handed detainees undergoing questioning an uninterrupted voice recording from the seminar as well as its 175-page transcript.

Turkey’s First Milgem Warship Launched in Istanbul

Milgem Corvette

The TCG Heybeliada is the first in what will eventually be a series of 12 multi-purpose littoral combat warships built under the Milli Gemi (National Ship or MILGEM) program. The Heybeliada has an overall length of 99 meters (325 feet), a maximum beam of 14.4 meters (47 feet), and a displacement of 2,000 metric tons (2,200 tons). In addition to weapons systems, the Heybeliada will have a hangar and platform for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Sea Hawk helicopters and/or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The vessel has been designed to operate with a crew of 93, including aviation personnel. It is expected to have range of 3,500 nautical miles and a top speed of over 29 knots.

 The Turkish navy has traditionally either bought its vessels secondhand, particularly from the United States, or had them built by foreign shipyards. The MILGEM project has its origins in a 1996 plan to have German MEKO A-100 corvettes built in Turkish shipyards. The Turkish navy subsequently shelved the idea and decided to try to build the country’s first entirely indigenous modern warship using Turkish shipyards, universities, and companies. Work on the plans began on March 12, 2004. The keel of the TCG Heybeliada was laid on July 26, 2005. The electronics systems and other equipment are still to be added; and it is expected to begin sea trials on October 25, 2010, and officially enter service in 2011. Nearly 40 Turkish companies have been involved in the project. Total local input is estimated at around 80 percent (Turkish Defense Industry Under-Secretariat website, www.ssm.gov.tr).

Once it is fully operational, the Heybeliada is expected to be mainly used for patrolling and observation, search and rescue operations, anti-submarine warfare, the monitoring and prevention of maritime terrorist activities, and coastguard duties (Turkish Navy website, www.dzkk.tsk.mil.tr).

The other 11 vessels in the MILGEM program are all due to be completed by 2028. Seven will be corvettes in the same “ADA Class” as the Heybeliada. Four will be classified as frigates of what will be known as the “F-100 Class.” The vessels in the F-100 Class will be slightly larger than the ADA Class corvettes and will be equipped with additional systems, such as the Mk-41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) for Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSMs). The F-100s will also serve as a testing platform for a planned new class of indigenous anti-aircraft warfare (AAW) frigates, known as the TF-2000 program.

The MILGEM program is part of a broader strategy of trying to develop the local defense industry in order to enable the Turkish Armed Forces to meet as high a proportion as possible of their needs from inside the country. In the past, Turkey has frequently faced problems in supplying its defense requirements from other countries. In 1974 the United States imposed an arms embargo on Turkey following its invasion of Cyprus. More recently, several European countries have either blacklisted Turkey or attempted to impose restrictions on the sale of weapons and equipment, particularly during the 1990s when the war against the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was at its height. Another reason for the decision to try to develop the local defense industry has been the hope that it will reduce costs. In practice, however, the scale and depth of foreign companies’ expertise still frequently means that it is more expensive to produce inside Turkey. The Turkish authorities are also aware that the country is unlikely ever to possess the breadth of technical expertise or an indigenous defense industry large enough to be entirely self-sufficient. But there is little doubt that in addition to practical considerations, one of the motivations for the development of an indigenous defense industry is simply national pride. The ceremony for the official launch of the TCG Heybeliada at a naval shipyard at Pendik in Istanbul was attended by both the high command of the Turkish General Staff (TGS) and leading representatives of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As has become customary at ceremonies and functions organized by the rigorously secularist TGS, and unlike the military commanders, the AKP representatives had not been invited to bring their wives, many of whom wear Islamic headscarves. As a result, the honor of smashing the traditional bottle of champagne against the Heybeliada’s bow fell not to the wife of the aggressively teetotal Erdogan but to the spouse of the official next in line in the protocol hierarchy, General Ilker Basbug, the chief of the TGS (Milliyet, Radikal, Hurriyet, September 28).

Nevertheless, Erdogan did take the opportunity to deliver a speech. “We have set as our primary target meeting the requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces from national industry and thus minimizing their dependence on other countries,” declared Erdogan. “Developments taking place on the seas around Turkey’s borders clearly demonstrate the importance of naval power” (Anadolu Ajansi, September 27).

The date for the launch of the Heybeliada had been deliberately chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the Ottoman victory over an alliance of Christian forces at the battle of Battle of Preveza on September 27, 1538, which cemented the Ottoman Empire’s position as the dominant naval power in the Mediterranean.

In his speech to the assembled dignitaries, a beaming Admiral Metin Atac, the commander of the Turkish navy, also attempted to thread the pedigree of the MILGEM project through a more recent triumph.

“The crazy sailor grandchildren of the Crazy Turks have succeeded in building this ship,” trumpeted Atac in an unmistakable reference to the best-selling novel, Those Crazy Turks, a stirring tale of ultranationalist narcissism set in the 1919 to 1922 Turkish War of Independence against the Greeks (Turgut Ozakman, Su Cilgin Turkler, Istanbul, Bilgi Yayinevi, 2005).

It is currently unclear whether Turkey will also attempt to use its growing indigenous defense industry for strategic leverage, for instance, by strengthening its relations with other countries; but there have already been unconfirmed reports that Pakistan is interested in MILGEM warships, starting by buying one directly from Turkey and then building at least three more in Karachi (Turkish Radio and Television, February 20, 2007).

ATAK Team Announce T129 Maiden Flight

 The T129 P1 prototype helicopter’s maiden flight was successfully completed by AgustaWestland and TAI test pilots during an official ceremony held at AgustaWestland facilities in Vergiate, Italy. The ATAK Programme was initiated with the aim to meet the 50 firm and 41 optional Attack/Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter requirement of the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLF) by the integration of high-tech avionic equipment, hardware and software which will be developed locally.The programme, in which the Turkish aviation industry is fully involved in the design, development and production phases, is running on time and on budget.

General Manager of TAI, Muharrem Dortkasli said: “It is a great privilege to be here today to witness the first flight of the T129, which will become the most advanced helicopter in its category, so satisfying the requirements of the Land Forces as well as making it very appealing to the international market. An international market in which the Turkish industry will play a primary role. It has been a long journey for us to come to this point. We are proud of the success the ATAK Team has generated, a success which I am sure will be followed by many others.”

Giuseppe Orsi commented “It gives us great pleasure to celebrate today the first flight of the most modern combat helicopter in the world. This event sets a major milestone in our longstanding partnership with Turkish industry and provides clear evidence of how effective this collaboration has been in jointly developing a state-of-the-art all customer-focused solution designed and brought to life in an extraordinary timely manner. Today the Turkish aviation industry enters a new era at the forefront of rotorcraft technology. We are committed to further expanding such a successful cooperation in the future.”

TRDEFENCE switches to WordPress

So, after considering several publishing options that also included the much hyped vBulletin, administration decided to utilize WordPress, which is a free, community-supported CMS developed mainly for blogging, as well as Garbfire’s Advanced Newspaper Theme, which is not free but is worth every penny.

Since we’re all very new to both WordPress and Garbfire’s themes, this will take some getting used to. But after seeing some of the other publishing websites on the web that look and function great, we’re confident that this new setup can meet and exceed TRDEFENCE’s needs to some time to come.

Please be patient as we voyage along. We think this will be a long and fun experience.Our first logo!