Israeli-Turkish Relations Straining Defense Ties
Global weapon sales are always subject to political influences. For many years, Turkey and Israel have maintained a close defense relationship that extended to training in Turkey and large procurement deals. Turkey’s $688 million buy of Israeli upgrades to create 170 M-60T “Sabra” tanks will remain the high-end backbone of its armored corps, until its new Leopard 2A4s are operational. Over 50 of its F-4 Phantom jets received the $700 million Israeli “F-4E Terminator 2020” upgrade to extend their competitiveness and service lives. They’re joined by Israeli drones like the Harpy radar killer, Searcher-II, Aerostar, and larger Heron UAVs that serve with Turkish forces.
The risk of Turkey’s Islamist AKP party has complicated that relationship, and recent cancellation of the Turkish/ American/ Israeli exercise Anatolia Eagle was followed just days later by the announcement of defense relationships and planned military exercises with Syria. Observers are reacting with varying levels of alarm to these developments, but some clear signals are evident in the defense trade. Defense News’ “Israel-Turkey Rift Derails Defense Trade” discusses some of the impacts, which are serious. They include changed status in Israel for any Turkish defense equipment or support requests, and a likely dearth of such requests on the Turkish end while the AKP remains in power. Defense News’ sources do say that the last 20 M-60Ts will be finished, and that the Heron UAV contract is still a go at this point – albeit with a more powerful engine to accommodate the extra weight of Turkish electronics.