Turkey Launches $450+ Million Strategic Reconnaissance Initiatives


The Turkish Air Force selected an Israeli industry team to provide strategic, combined airborne IMINT (Imagery Intelligence) systems under a $141 million program recently approved by the Governments’ arms procurement agency (SSM). Turkey also selected the Italian satellite manufacturer Telespazio as the preferred bidder for the Eur 250 million Göktürk electro optical satellite program. The satellite, to be launched within 3 years (by 2012) will carry a space camera built by the French company Alcatel, capable of delivering images at a resolution of 0.8 meters.

As part of the project, Telespazio will create a joint venture with a local partner in Turkey to develop and market commercial application services based on the new satellite.

The airborne IMINT system comprises two different systems, offering long range reconnaissance capability under all weather and visibility conditions, day and night. The systems comprises a long-range electro-optical imaging rece pod developed by Elbit Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ:ESLT) and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) recce pod, provided by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI) Elta Systems. Elta will also provide the ground processing and control center. Elbit System’s El-Op share of the program will be $87 million while IAI/Elta will get $54 million. Deliveries under the contract will be made over a four-year period.

Several years ago Turkey contracted Elbit Systems to supply the Condor 2 (LOROP) system, but has cancelled the order claiming the Israeli supplier failed to meet some of the requirements. While Turkey launched a new acquisition program, in which most of the world’s leading recce suppliers participated. At that time, The Condor further evolved, and was fielded by several countries, and is operated with F-16s in South Korea and Israel. A combined IMINT solution similar to the one selected by Turkey is believed to being developed for Indian Air Force Su-30MKIs. The recent selections re-established the Condor 2 as the favored system for the TUAF as well, augmented by the all-weather capability of Elta’s SAR pod. “The system is based on a well-developed and proven solution, which has already been chosen by several leading Air Forces and has recorded thousands of successful operational flight hours in severely demanding conditions.”

Israel has recently supplied Turkey with the initial two Heron UAVs. The drones are currently deployed at the Batman military base in Southeast Turkey where they are undergoing ground testing. Israel is expected to deliver the remaining 8 Herons in the upcoming months.

Under a separate program Turkey is also procuring two Gulfstream G550 business jets, to be used as airborne command posts. These aircraft will replace two GIVs being used as VIP aircraft since 1989. In the past 24 months Turkey evaluated several alternatives for the VIP/airborne C4 platform, including the Airbus A319 Corporate Jet. Turkey will take delivery of a G550 VIP plane in early 2009 and will receive the two Command and Control aircraft by 2011.