ANKARA (Today’s Zaman)–Turkey may take Israel to an international arbitration court over the Heron unmanned aircraft it purchased from Israel, which Turkey says are not up to scratch, according to a source from the Defense Ministry.
In 2005, Turkey bought 10 Herons from Israel for $183 million for use in anti-terrorism efforts. These were promised for delivery in May 2008, but did not arrive until October 2009. After the one-and-a-half-year delay, they were used in Turkey’s operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in November. Later, they were taken to the Unmanned Air Vehicles Center in Batman, where they were examined by engineers. The tests showed that the craft did not comply with the tender specifications required by Turkey. On Nov. 30, they were returned to Israel.
The manufacturer was given 50 days to fix the Herons’ problems as noted by Turkey, but Israel has not yet said a word on the issue despite the approaching deadline of mid-January.
A source from the Defense Ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Today’s Zaman that if Israel fails to carry out its obligations under the tender agreement by the end of the 50-day period, Turkey will seek international arbitration. “We don’t want to take this to court. But we will if we have to. We will have no other option unless the Israeli manufacturer fulfills its obligations.”
The Herons “failed terribly” during tests carried out by the Air Force Command at the Batman airbase, according to the Defense Ministry, which said the craft failed to meet the expectations and requirements of the Turkish military, including requirements regarding maximum airspeeds. The Israeli manufacturer offered to strengthen the Herons’ motors, and Turkey gave the company 50 days. Although the ministry has been silent about the start date of this 50-day period, sources say the deadline falls sometime in mid-January.
In addition to the Herons’ failure to fly up to 30,000 feet as specified in the tender’s terms — the tests proved their maximum height to be 22,000 feet — there were also reports of problems with the control mechanism of the planes during landing, which could be extremely dangerous. The flight duration of the Herons was specified as 52 hours, but they also failed the flight duration tests.
Israel also blames ASELSAL — the electronic systems installed on the planes — for disrupting the planes’ aero-elastic stability, causing the planes to fail the performance tests. However, Turkey does not accept this argument as the manufacturer knew the specifications of the ASELSAL navigation system at the beginning of the contract.