Environment Ministry restricts testing of new railgun system in Salt Lake for flamingos
Aysel Alp – ANKARA
The Turkish Environment Ministry has restricted the planned testing of the Aselsan Tufan railgun weapon system to three months on Salt Lake (“Tuz Gölü” in Turkish) in central Turkey, home to the country’s largest flamingo colony.
The ministry said the Turkish military could undertake the testing of the electro-magnetic gun only during the December-February period, when flamingos migrate to other places and are not spotted in the lake.
Salt Lake, the second largest lake in Turkey, is located about 105 km northeast of the Central Anatolian province of Konya. Aside from being known for its water naturally turning red due to algae, Salt Lake is also known for its flamingos. Each year, thousands of greater flamingo chicks emerge from their nests by the lake.
The Environment Ministry’s statement regarding the protection of flamingos in the lake came after the military requested permission, sent via the Defense Ministry, to use the area to test the new Tufan weapon system.
In response to the Defense Ministry, the Environment Ministry said Salt Lake was a unique place and fire testing should not be carried out during March-August as it is when flamingos nest and hatch.
According to the ministry, fire testing should also not be undertaken between September and November either because it is when flamingos start migrating from the area, leaving only the December-February period.
The Environment Ministry also said that in the event of a construction in the area the Defense Ministry would have to get permission on the condition that the “area is to be used by the Turkish Republic and not by NATO members.”
“Within the scope of training activities of the Turkish Land Forces Command, the ministry finds it appropriate that the firing activities are conducted only in the months of December, January and February of each year at the Salt Lake firing range,” the statement said.
Also commenting on the issue, Baran Bozoğlu, the head of the Chamber of Environmental Engineers, said: “The development of the national defense industry is of course important for our country. But it is more appropriate for such tests to be undertaken outside a natural area that should be protected.”
“Salt Lake is already under risk due to drought and climate change, and this will trigger the ecological crisis further. And I am sure that damaging an area that is the apple of our eye will not make our defense industry happy. We demand that sensitivity is displayed on this issue,” he said.
Known as the “Tufan” (Turkish for storm), the railgun has been developed by Turkey’s leading defense company Aselsan. It could be integrated into several platforms including vessels or ground vehicles as well as be used as a static weapon system on land. The system could be utilized for indirect/direct fire missions against ground and naval targets or be used as an anti-aircraft weapon.