Two years after they were ordered, Turkey has received the first two Israeli
Heron UAVs. The remaining eight aircraft will arrive next year. For the last
five years, the Turkish Army has been trying to buy UAVs. These efforts were
delayed because of interference, or inactivity by the Defense Ministry
procurement bureaucrats. Apparently, not enough bribes have been going to the
right people, because Turkish defense procurement is not always this sluggish.
what happened when the Turks sought to buy an American Predator UAV, to fill in
for the delayed Herons. The manufacturer told the Turks that, normally, it
would take seven years to get one (there is a backlog). Then the U.S.
government intervened and made it possible for the Turks to get a Predator in
18 months. The Turkish generals told the Defense Ministry and nothing happened.
Based on past experience, the forecast is for more nothing, following by still
million worth of Israeli Heron UAVs were delayed because the Defense Ministry
insisted that Turkish firms supply some of the components, like the cameras.
The UAV purchase order was officially signed in 2005, and delivery was
scheduled for October 2007. But the Turkish camera suppliers had some problems
integrating their equipment with the UAV, delaying service until now.
problem is that the Turks are fighting Kurdish separatists in eastern Turkey
and northern Iraq at the moment, and really need those UAVs. So the Israeli
manufacturer made an interim deal to supply wholly Israeli Herons, along with
support personnel, on a $10 million lease. Because this is a wartime situation,
this deal was pushed through rapidly.
The U.S. has
helped out in a similar fashion, providing one of their Predators for the
Turks. American operators run this UAV, but Turkish officers are basically
directing where the UAV will go and what it will watch. This deal has been
criticized because apparently the American UAV has also been used to seek out
PKK gunmen just across the border in Turkey. As the two new Herons enter
service, the American Predator will remain in service, because the Turks still
want at least one UAV that can carry missiles (a Predator can carry and fire
two 107 pound Hellfire missiles.) The U.S. offer of a Predator, to be delivered
in 18 months, still stands. But Israel is also offering a UAV (the 4.6 ton
Heron 2, that can carry up to a ton of sensors and weapons.) It will probably
come down to who can guarantee delivery earlier.