Savunma ve Stratejik Analizler

6 Nisan 2012 Cuma

Crisis with Israel pushes Turkey to obtain MAVs from US for surveillance

5 April 2012 / EMRE SONCAN , ANKARA

As tense Turkish-Israeli relations have made it almost impossible to renew the intelligence cooperation between the two countries, especially in purchasing new Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Turkey has decided to lease five manned aerial vehicles (MAVs) from the US in order to obtain intelligence in the fight against terrorism in southeastern Turkey

Turkey, in desperate need of technology, will lease King Air 350 aircraft from the US, its close military ally. The aircraft will be in service for the next two years, sources told Today’s Zaman on Thursday.

For the time being, only three UAVs in the possession of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are properly functioning and operational. The rest of the UAVs are out of service because of the lack of essential technical equipment and land control stations. Relations with Israel worsened over Israel’s refusal to issue an apology over a flotilla incident in 2010, in which eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish American died in an Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara aid ship. This incident also played a role in not renewing contracts with Israel.

Pilots from the Turkish Air Forces (THK) will reportedly fly the King Air 350 instead of the unmanned Israeli-made Herons, which do not need to be controlled by human beings when they are in the air.

The new aircraft has sophisticated and advanced technology, and is expected to give an edge to the Turkish military in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The cameras set on the aircraft can even detect which rifle a terrorist on the ground is holding. The King Air 350 will transmit the visuals it records to a ground station in code. Until the completion of the Turkish ANKA (a UAV project), the King Air 350s will remain in service.

The aircraft are able to ascend to a height of 30,000 feet, and three of the five planes can be in the air for 24 hours. The project will cost Turkey $70 million. Along with TSK, police and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) will also be able to use new technology if it deems necessary.

A team of experts from the TSK, MİT and police went to the US to conduct tests of the new aircraft.

Sources told Today’s Zaman that there have been secret negotiations between the TSK, MİT and the police over purchasing the new technology and its operational role. The Uludere incident in December, in which 34 citizens died as THK were trying to target PKK terrorists, triggered the process.

A secret tender, which was held by the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) for procurement of UAVs or MAVS, was finalized recently at a cost of $70 million. The Land Forces will be responsible for the new aircraft, but police will also be able to benefit from the new technology. If the project meets the needs and demands of the military, the SSM may purchase new surveillance aircraft for MİT.

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