PKK peace may modify Turkey’s arms preferences

PKK peace may modify Turkey’s arms preferences

Burak BEKDİL ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
PKK peace may modify Turkey’s arms preferences

Peace with the PKK could alter Turkey’s arms procurement habits. DHA photo

A historic handshake in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict may politically resonate throughout the region, but it’s not just that: It may modify Turkey’s expensive shopping list for weapons systems.

Analysts say peace with the Kurds could modify Turkey’s defense procurement plans but admit “change would come gradually as the initiative proves to be a lasting peace and not a long cease-fire.”

The systems Ankara essentially needs in times of asymmetrical war may no longer occupy the top ranks in the country’s acquisition plan, and other items such as conventional weaponry may go up on the list, they said.

For example, drones, smart ammunition, attack helicopters, anti-riot vehicles and armored vehicles – especially IED-resistant vehicles – may be required in smaller quantities and less urgently.

Unless there are export deals, Turkey may have to narrow some of its unmanned aerial vehicle programs, said one analyst. The same is true for future orders for armored vehicles and attack helicopters. As for its previous commitments, Ankara may seek sales to third countries.

Turkey’s armored vehicles industry has evolved largely to answer the military’s needs in the war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It has sold the government thousands of vehicles since the mid-1990s. The largest current program – the production of 2,720 tactical wheeled vehicles, including command-and-control, mine-resistant and ambush-protected vehicles, as well as troop and equipment carriers – is worth up to $2 billion. Separate deals with armored vehicle makers Otokar and BMC were signed in 2009. Otokar has delivered the command-and-control vehicles; other deliveries are continuing. BMC is the maker of the IED-resistant vehicles.

Peace would also make Turkey’s plans to buy a few U.S.-made drones null and void. To bolster the army’s intelligence-gathering capabilities in its fight against the PKK, Turkey in 2011 made a request to get a few MQ-1 Predator drones, made by the U.S. General Atomics. That request has remained unanswered, but Washington now fully supports a possible Turkish-Kurdish peace plan. President Barack Obama has said these efforts would lead to “real progress.”

“I applaud [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s efforts to seek a peaceful solution to a struggle that has caused so much pain and sorrow,” Obama told Turkish daily Milliyet in Washington Feb. 10. He said the U.S. would continue to support Turkey in its desire to close the chapter and begin a new chapter of peace and security.