The Turkish military is looking to acquire armed and effective unmanned aerial vehicles in the fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and ankara has souhgt U.S. MQ-9 Reapers, which the U.S. military has been using in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is, however, not clear whether President barack obama's new administration will be willing to export this very powerful system to Turkey.Defense analysts agree that the ultimate decision by the United States, expected in the next six months, will give a clear indication about the status of future U.S. arms sales to Turkey for programs in which ankara has more than one available option.Turkey made a formal request for the purchase of the MQ-9 in December and is waiting for a U.S. response, officials said. If the sale takes place, it will be under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales, or FMS, program.The MQ-9 Reaper, also known as the RQ-9 Predator B, is the first hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle designed for high-altitude surveillance and assault. The U.S. military has used this vehicle to hit al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most recently in Pakistan.The MQ-9 Reaper was developed by the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.During his election campaign, Obama pledged to boost relations with Turkey. "This relationship has been deeply strained in recent years, most importantly by the Bush administration’s misguided and mismanaged intervention in Iraq, which has helped revive the terrorist threat posed to Turkey by the separatist PKK," said a position paper outlining Obama's foreign policy during the election campaign.Obama’s pledgeSince late last year, the United States has been providing the Turkish military with intelligence on the PKK. Using this intelligence, the Turkish Air Force has repeatedly struck PKK positions inside neighboring Iraq and in one case in February, some 2,000 Turkish commandos carried out a limited cross-border operation on Iraqi soil.So far the United States has exported the Reaper to Britain after which the aircraft began operations in Afghanistan in November 2007.The United States has also agreed to sell the MQ-9 to Germany and Italy.The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, announced in two separate statements in August that it had notified Congress of possible Reaper sales to Germany and Italy. A 15-day waiting period then passed with no objection from Congress, which effectively means that congressional permission was received.What about Turkey?The DSCA said that Germany had made a request to purchase five Reapers and four ground control stations, plus related support material and training, all worth $205 million. DSCA said Italy's request was for four aircraft, four ground stations and five years of maintenance support, valued at $330 million."After deciding to sell the MQ-9 to Western European allies, if the United States does not want to provide it to the Turkish military, it will affect the climate of military-to-military and other defense related ties. But we will see," one defense analyst said.During former President Bill Clinton’s term, from 1993 to 2001, although political relations with Turkey flourished, washington was against the sale of some weapons systems due to concerns about alleged human rights violations.During George W. Bush’s presidency, the human rights violations pretext was removed, but this time strict U.S. restrictions on technology transfer and some demanding specifications requested by the Turkish procurement agency that were not in accordance with U.S. export regulations, prevented some U.S. sales, according to American officials.General Atomics wanted to sell the Predator, the MQ-9’s unarmed version, to Turkey in the early 2000s, but lost in a competition with Israel, which at the time proposed the Heron system.Even if the United States decides against the MQ-9 sale, Turkey’s Air Force-related FMS purchases from the United States, including plans to buy the Joint Strike Fighter F-35, a next generation fighter aircraft, will not be affected, defense analysts say."But this kind of a situation will strengthen a tendency in Turkey to buy non-American systems whenever and where-ever possible," said one analyst.