IAI, Elbit send Heron engineers, flight instructors back to Israel.
By YAAKOV KATZ
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’sZaman, in response to the withdrawal of the Israeli teams,the Turkish military has implemented “Plan B” and instead of the Herondrones is now using a Turkish-made drone called IHA, which ismanufactured by Bykar.The IHA, the report said, has a range of 15 kilometers and can fly ataltitudes of about 12,000 feet. It is inferior to Israel’s Heron, whichcan 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 knewthe deal had not been cancelled. The companies said they intended tocontinue with delivery plans and “business as usual.” The companieshave already delivered eight of the UAVs to Turkey, and two arecurrently under production.AdvertisementIf the report that the Turks have cancelled the deal is true, though,it is another indication of the deteriorating ties between Israel andTurkey. Following the flotilla raid, Israel also expects that thetrilateral Turkish-US-Israeli Reliant Mermaid search and rescue navalexercise, scheduled for August, will also be cancelled. It has beenheld annually for the past decade.
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