For the last six years, the Turkish Army has been trying to buy UAVs. They now have a U.S. Predator and Reaper on order, a deal that is awaiting Congressional approval. An earlier deal to buy ten Israeli Herons got caught up in Turkish procurement politics.
These earlier 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. Last year, two years after they were ordered, Turkey has received the first two Israeli Heron UAVs. The remaining eight aircraft will arrive this year.
The $190 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. Now the Turks are admitting that the Turkish camera supplier is not up to the task, and are negotiating to put an Israeli camera on the Herons.
There is a big demand for UAVs in Turkey. The army is 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. The U.S. also provides U-2 recon missions for the Turks.
Even 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. offered to sell a Predator, and deliver it in 18 months. But Israel is also offering a larger 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 faster. While the Turkish government has been making angry noises at the Israelis (over the recent 22 day war in Gaza), the Turkish Army continues to maintain a close relationship with the Israelis.