US finally approves crucial ‘smart bomb’ sale to Turkey
Tolga Tanış - WASHINGTON
AFP PhotoThe U.S. has decided to sell Turkey $70 million worth of “smart bombs,” a key item in a set of crucial weapon systems that Washington had been refusing to send to Ankara.
The Pentagon announced on Oct. 29 that the U.S. State Department approved the sale after the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), part of the U.S. Department of Defense, told Congress late on Oct. 28 that Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) systems would be sold to Turkey, granting lawmakers 15 days for any block.
The Turkish military attaches great importance to the systems, especially amid the upsurge of clashes between the security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. Turkey is also a part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its İncirlik base is used for strikes against the jihadist group.
ISIL has intensified its focus on Turkey with recent suicide bomb attacks. On Oct. 10 a suicide blast claimed 102 lives in the capital Ankara, almost three months after a suicide attack in the border town Suruç in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa killed 34 people.
Hürriyet reported on Oct. 8 that U.S. senators Ben Cardin and Bob Corker were vetoing the sale of the smart bomb kits to Turkey, while Corker was also blocking the sale of frigates and congressman Eliot Engel was blocking the sale of military helicopters.
According to a statement by the DSCA, the package to be sold to Turkey includes Mk84, BLU-109 and Mk82 bombs, 900 smart bomb kits, 100 laser kits, 200 warheads and 1,000 capsules.
MK-84, which is ammunition for F-16 jets that constitutes the backbone of the Turkish Air Force fleet, is used in targeting large buildings, factories, bridges, hangars and underground shelters. Mk82 is used against tanks, small buildings and other ground targets. BLU-109 is classified as a “bunker buster.”
“It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our NATO ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the DSCA stated on its website on Oct. 29.
The principal contractors of the deal will be Raytheon Co, the General Atomics Corp., and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc.
Security sources had told Hürriyet before the approval that if the U.S. does not issue permits for smart ammunition sales then Turkey would run out of the military equipment critical in military operations against the PKK.