Lies, statistics and military lies

Lies, statistics and military lies

It is never unusual that “Turkish affairs” often make one smile. It can be a news story, or just a headline. Recently, one such headline in the English-language Turkish press read: “Turkey [is] Africa’s strategic partner, says Turkey’s EU Minister.” A Turkish minister for Africa may not be too remote or senseless, especially if the honorable minister makes speeches in praise of Turkey’s EU accession.

A more recent favorite was the relieving words of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who, briefly, spoke like the defense minister – but that, too, should be normal in a country where anomaly is the new normal. “This nation,” Minister Davutoğlu said, “will from now on never need [the services of] other countries in ensuring its [national] defense.”

As a matter of fact, Mr. Davutoğlu spoke like a defense minister because the merry event about which he was speaking was defense-related. But what was the event that inspired Mr. Davutoğlu to think that Turkey would, from now on, never need the services of foreign nations to ensure its defenses?

After several years of delays, an American company, Boeing, had eventually delivered the first of a batch of four spy planes (more accurately known as airborne early warning and control aircraft) that it built for the Turkish Air Force – “American,” unless, of course, the Turks had not discreetly acquired the company. 

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for the belated delivery of the first Turkish spy plane, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the following: “We [Turkey] have started the production of attack helicopters. And today we also took a $3.5 billion [worth] step on utility helicopters [for the army].” A $3.5 billion step! But with which Turkish company had that $3.5 billion contract been signed?

Well, according to the contract, the signatory’s name is Sikorsky Aircraft. This must be another Turkish defense giant disguised as an American helicopter-maker, like Agusta-Westland, maker of the T-129, the Turkish attack helicopter that Mr. Erdoğan mentioned, which hides itself under a fake Italian-British corporate identity.

In his shiny inauguration speech, Mr. Erdoğan revealed something else: “Our navy is now outfitted mostly by national [Turkish-made] warships.” Is it? But of course, if you applied the Boeing/Sikorsky/Agusta-Westland criteria.

The Turkish Navy’s warship inventory consists of eight “Gabya-class” frigates, all U.S.-made. The Navy also has four “Barbaros-class” frigates two of which were built in Hamburg and the other two in Turkey under German license. Two of the four “Yavuz-class” frigates were built in Hamburg and Kiel and the other two, again, were built (read: assembled) in Turkey under German license.

The Navy has two corvettes built in Turkey and six built in France. It also has six submarines built in Germany; eight built in Turkey under German license and six more coming, under German license too. The Navy’s aerial support (reconnaissance and surveillance) assets include maritime patrol aircraft, built in Italy, Spain and France; and maritime helicopters built in Italy and the United States.

That’s all about “a navy outfitted mostly by national warships.” But then why is Turkey on an ambitious road to build its national fighter jet? If building a military platform under license from its foreign maker is sufficient to make it “national,” someone should remind the prime minister that Turkey has a modest history of “building” (assembling) scores of the U.S.-made F-16 fighters. Why should the F-16s built in Turkey not count as “national,” when warships do? Is that not unfair to warplanes?

It would be even more amusing if the part-time defense minister, Mr. Davutoğlu, explained why “this nation, from now on, will never need [the services of] other countries in ensuring its [national] defense” just because Turkey, at that moment, had received the first of a batch of expensive aircraft designed and built in the United States. Is every U.S. delivery of weaponry reducing Turkey’s dependency on foreign weapons manufacturers? 

Lies, statistics and military lies. The sky is the limit.