UAV specialists recalled from Turkey

IAI, Elbit send Heron engineers, flight instructors back to Israel.

June 15, 2010 06:45
1 minute read.
The Heron UAV, of the type being supplied to Turke

heron uav 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Israeli defense industries have recalled employees from Turkey amid growing concerns that they could be targeted in retaliation for the botched naval raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla two weeks ago.

During the raid, navy commandos boarded the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara and in ensuing clashes killed nine passengers the IDF identified as mercenaries hired to ambush the boarding soldiers. Israel suspects that the Turkish government was involved in financing the mercenaries.

On Saturday, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems Ltd. recalled teams of engineers and flight instructors who were teaching the Turkish military how to use the Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that had been supplied to Turkey as part of a $180 million deal signed in 2004.

IAI and Elbit were supposed to supply ten UAVs to the Turkish military, but the deal was delayed after the Heron was found to be incompatible with the Turkish-made payloads it was supposed to carry. IAI and Elbit missed the original delivery date but since then have supplied five of the UAVs.

According to a report in the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman, in response to the withdrawal of the Israeli teams, the Turkish military has implemented “Plan B” and instead of the Heron drones is now using a Turkish-made drone called IHA, which is manufactured by Bykar.

The IHA, the report said, has a range of 15 kilometers and can fly at altitudes of about 12,000 feet. It is inferior to Israel’s Heron, which can fly for up to 50 hours and at altitudes of about 35,000 feet.

IAI and Elbit released a statement claiming that as far as they knew the deal had not been cancelled. The companies said they intended to continue with delivery plans and “business as usual.” The companies have already delivered eight of the UAVs to Turkey, and two are currently under production.

If the report that the Turks have cancelled the deal is true, though, it is another indication of the deteriorating ties between Israel and Turkey. Following the flotilla raid, Israel also expects that the trilateral Turkish-US-Israeli Reliant Mermaid search and rescue naval exercise, scheduled for August, will also be cancelled. It has been held annually for the past decade.

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