US deployed Predators to İncirlik: Davutoğlu
The U.S. has deployed four MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at Turkey’s southern airbase of İncirlik as part of efforts to continue Iraq-related surveillance of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said late Nov. 12.
Davutoğlu told reporters the İncirlik-based Predators would enter service against the PKK by Nov. 22, according to the Anatolia news agency. “Intelligence is being shared by a joint unit in Turkey [between U.S. and Turkish military forces] on a real-time basis,” he said.
Davutoğlu said the flight route of the drones is completely determined by the Turkish Armed Forces. Under a November 2007 agreement between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington, the U.S. military has been sharing electronic intelligence on the PKK’s activities inside Iraq, obtained by the Predators, with its Turkish counterparts. The Turkish military has conducted several air operations against the PKK targets in Iraq based on such information.
Under an agreement with the Iraqi government, the U.S. will fully withdraw its military forces from that country before the year’s end. As a result, it has deployed the four anti-PKK drones, formerly based in Iraq, at İncirlik, Davutoğlu said.
These four Predators based at İncirlik are distinct from the drones Turkey has asked to purchase from the U.S. Turkey in early 2009 requested to buy four MQ-1 Predator surveillance drones and two armed versions of the UAV, the MQ-9 Reaper, from the U.S., but Washington still has not responded.
Separately, Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım said Sunday that Turkey will soon be able to locally produce all of its major arms systems.
“We will soon see Turkey among a small number of countries after the U.S. and Israel that can manufacture UAVs that have strategic capabilities,” Yıldırım said at a ceremony in the eastern town of Erzurum, according to the Anatolia news agency.
He was referring to the Anka drone, designed and being produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). TAI recently completed a successful first flight test on the Anka and plans to complete the manufacturing stage next year.
“In 2023, which marks the 100th anniversary of our republic, we will together reach our target to become a Turkey that designs, manufactures and exports its own national weapons, guns, tanks, helicopters, aircraft, UAVs and satellites,” Yıldırım said.
Yıldırım said Turkey has become a modernization center for many countries’ F-16 fighter aircrafts.
“In 2002, our defense industry exports totaled only $247 million. Last year we exceeded $1 billion,” he said. “In three or four years we will exceed $5 billion.”