US and Turkey to Provide Air Cover for ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels

A Turkish fighter jet flies above the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey.

 

Reversing a long standing decision by the two countries, the United States and Turkey have announced plans to provide air cover for “moderate” Syrian rebels. While the Pentagon has admitted severe problems in identifying so-called moderates, the new strategy is meant to combat ISIL and to establish a safe zone along Turkey’s Syrian border.

While the Turkish government has been lobbying for the establishment of coalition-enforced “no-fly zone” along its Syrian border, the United States has long been opposed to such an operation.

“What we have now is air coverage to clear a region from Daesh (Islamic State) and support the moderate opposition so they can gain control of that region,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told ATV. “We do not want to see Daesh on Turkey’s borders.”

According to Al Arabiya News, Davutoglu also promised the Democratic Union Party (PYD) “a place” in the new Syria if it cuts ties to President Bashar al-Assad and pledges allegiance to Turkey.

“If we are not going to send in land units on the ground, and we will not, then those forces acting as ground forces cooperating with us should be protected,” the prime minister said.

Officials in Washington were quick to downplay the notion that the air cover will in any way establish a formal safe zone.

“The purpose of the operation is not to create a safe zone into which Syrian refugees will go,” a senior Obama administration official said, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“They might go, but that’s not the purpose of the operation. The purpose of the operation is to clear the border and close the border to Daesh.”

The announcement is especially surprising given a Pentagon report from earlier this month that detailed Washington’s difficulties in even identifying a “moderate” Syrian opposition.

“We are trying to recruit and identify people who…can be counted on…to fight, to have the right mindset and ideology,” US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the House Armed Services Committee last month.

“It turns out to be very hard to identify people who meet both of those criteria.”

That’s because a large portion of that “moderate” opposition is less interested in engaging with the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group, and more focused on fighting Assad’s government.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that the Turkish government has been launching a series of attacks against Kurdish insurgent camps in Iraq.

“The ongoing military operation seeks to neutralize imminent threats to Turkey’s national security and continues to target Islamic State in Syria and the [Kurdistan Workers Party] in Iraq,” a Turkish official told Reuters, referring to Sunday night’s skirmishes.

But while Washington recognizes the PKK as a Turkish target, it remains focused on IS.

“PKK is a foreign terrorist organization, Turks have a right to defend themselves against it,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby told Reuters.

“There’s no connection between what they did against PKK and what we’re going to try to do together against ISIL.”

Last week, the Turkish government announced it was allowing the US to conduct air strike operations against IS out of Incirlik Air Base. While Ankara had previously tried to remain unengaged in the fight against the terrorist group, the death of 32 students in a suspected IS suicide bombing has reversed that policy.

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Turkey Confirms Greek Jets Chased Turkish Fighters Over Aegean Sea

Turkish Air Force F-16

 
Earlier in the day, several news outlets reported that Greece had scrambled fighter jets after Turkish aircraft had trespassed into Greek airspace.

   The General Staff of Turkey on Thursday confirmed on Thursday media reports that several Greek fighters had chased a group of Turkish aircraft over the Aegean Sea.

“Six Turkish F-16 fighters made a training flight over international waters of the Aegean Sea on Tuesday, during which two Greek F-16 fighters chased one of them, and two Greek Mirage 2000 fighters held two of our aircraft as a target on the radar set for one minute. Turkish aircraft responded in the same way,” the Turkish General Staff said in a statement.

Turkey does not recognize a 10-mile zone of Greek airspace surrounding islands in the Aegean Sea that are the reason of numerous such incidents between Turkish and Greek warplanes in the sky over the sea.Disputes over the status of islands in the Aegean Sea has brought Greece and Turkey to the verge of hostilities twice, in 1987 and in 1996. The conflicts were smoothed over by the United States and NATO, as both states are the long-standing members of the alliance.

German missile battery receives orders from… unknown ‘hackers’ – report

Soldiers of the German armed forces Bundeswehr stand next a Patriot system in Kahramanmaras, Turkey (Reuters / Osman Orsal)

Soldiers of the German armed forces Bundeswehr stand next a Patriot system in Kahramanmaras, Turkey (Reuters / Osman Orsal)

 

The German Patriot air and missile defense systems, stationed at the Turkish border with Syria, have carried out “unexplained” commands allegedly issued by unknown hackers, according to a German media report since rebutted by the government.

The US-produced missile systems, belonging to the German Bundeswehr armed forces and based on the territory of NATO ally Turkey since 2013, have been compromised, according to a report in the German Behörden Spiegel.

As a result, the systems, consisting of six launchers and two radars, reportedly carried out “unexplained” orders, the publication claimed, providing no further information on the kind of commands.

A spokesman for the Federal Department of Defense however rebutted the report on Tuesday, saying that “there is no base data” for an extremely improbable attack, Die Welt newspaper reported.

According to the magazine, there could be two weak spots in the system, which was first used by the US army over 30 years ago. The first one is the Sensor-Shooter-Interoperability (SSI), which stands for the information exchange between the missile launcher and its control system. Another weakness could be in computer chips, which are responsible for the guidance of the weapon.

Compromising military systems is not something that an amateur hacking group would have the skills to do, or would want to admit doing, believes computer security consultant and former UK-based computer hacker Robert Jonathan Schifreen. He told RT that the “unexplained” commands from the hackers mentioned in the report, while “certainly worrying,” could not possibly be anything of much significance.

“These systems are not linked to public networks, they require special codes to fire the missile, which only a certain number of people have, and you generally need the code from two or three people to fire it, or to do anything that is of significance,” Schifreen said. “I don’t think it’s actually happened, which is not to say that some of these systems are not hackable in some way. It is possible in some way perhaps to detect the presence of it, but anything more than that is going to take some serious skills.”

“It is certainly the case that foreign governments, intelligence agencies do try to hack into these systems, and it may well be that the software built into the missile has been compromised in some way by some foreign government,” he added.

But the main risk, says security expert Billy Rios, stems from software upgrades that provide smart weapon capabilities to the weaponry, along with incompetence of local operators who have only basic understanding of how these military systems work and connect to each other.

“Each individual weapons system presents a different set of systems that someone would have to penetrate in order to take control of it,” Rios told RT. “It is surprising how these things eventually get connected to the internet or to the network. Normally it does not start off that way, normally it’s during an upgrade of some type. One day it’s not connected and the next day it is.”

“It is a good question for commanders to be asking themselves: Hey, are our systems connected? Are they somehow connected to the Internet? Have we had any recent upgrades that made these things smart, like smart weapon, where it can transmit data to and from other places?”

“And it’s probably a question they are not very comfortable asking themselves,” he added.

Meanwhile a former MI5 agent and whistleblower, Annie Machon, noted the reports of unauthorized access to US-made military systems “is a parallel with some of the disclosures that Edward Snowden has come out with.”

“The US based software is often very closed, very proprietary, nobody is allowed to see what their codes contain and the NSA has lent on companies to make sure that back doors are built in, which is for NSA to look at and its vassal states,” Machon told RT, talking on the vulnerabilities of the military hardware, governed by American software.

Last month, Germany announced that it planned to replace Patriot missiles with MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System), a new air defense system developed by the USA, Italy and Germany. The cost of the move is estimated at more than €4 billion.

“Who actually has their finger on the trigger? This is a basic problem for partners of the US. If they buy US software, if they buy US military hardware, do they really have control of it?” Machon wondered.

“Now, any country that is serious about its national security, its national interests should surely be building its own weaponry. And it should be making sure it’s developing its own population knowledge base, its skills base – to be able to do that, too.”

The number of Turkish fighter jets patrolling the country’s border with war-torn Syria has broken a record.

Number of Turkish fighter jets on Syria border breaks record

Photo courtesy: The Turkish Air Force

From two to six Turkish F-16s have been patrolling the Syrian border recently, but Turkey’s Chief of Staff announced that the number was increased to 10 on May 19.

The Chief of Staff’s statement also said that the Syrian SA-type air defence systems “locked its radar” on two Turkish F-16s for 45 seconds on May 19. The statement described the Syrian move as “harassment.”

Greek fighter jets also locked their radars for two minutes on two Turkish F-4s and one F-16 over the Aegean Sea on May 19 in a move that was immediately reciprocated in the same manner, the statement added.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Secretary General Gürsel Tekin had claimed earlier this month that Turkey was planning to launch a military operation in Syria ahead of the June 7 general elections.

Turkish government officials strictly denied the claim last week, before Turkish jets shot down a Syrian military aircraft on May 16.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Defence Minister İsmet Yılmaz had initially announced that the downed aircraft was a Syrian helicopter, but the Turkish army then announced it was an unmanned surveillance drone, confirming earlier reports in the pro-regime media in Syria.

Russian arms exporter reaches several agreements with Turkey at IDEF-2015 arms fair

Russian officials previously said that the Turkish side was interested in Russia’s antiaircraft defence systems, including the Antey-2500

Antey-2500 surface-to-air missile system

Antey-2500 surface-to-air missile system

ISTANBUL, May 7. /TASS/. Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport has reached a number of agreements with the Turkish colleagues at the International Defense Industry Fair IDEF-2015 in Turkey. The work on the agreements will be started in May, the company’s delegation head Anatoly Aksyonov told journalists on Thursday.

According to him, the Russian special exporter has already found “many partners in the Turkish industry that have already pooled efforts in certain spheres of work.”

“I think that after the holidays we will start the work on the agreements we have reached with the Turkish colleagues,” Aksyonov said.

He declined to specify the projects, only saying that they are both in the sphere of ground equipment and the Air Force and Navy.

Russian officials previously said that the Turkish side was interested in Russia’s antiaircraft defence systems, including the Antey-2500.

JSC Rosoboronexport is the sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports/imports of defence-related and dual use products, technologies and services. The corporation was set up by a decree of the President of Russia and is charged with implementation of the policy of the state in the field of military-technical cooperation between Russia and foreign countries. The official status of Rosoboronexport guarantees the Russian government’s support in all export operations.

Russia has been taking part in IDEF since 1995. More than 50 delegations from 17 countries visited Rosoboronexport’s stand in 2013, suggesting keen interest in Russian arms in the region.

The Russian-Turkish military-technical cooperation dates back to March 16, 1921 when the Treaty of Friendship and Brotherhood was signed between Soviet Russia and Turkey. Upon its conclusion, Russia began providing financial and military-technical aid to the Turkish government. Turkey’s accession to NATO did not become an obstacle to further development of ties with Russia. As a result, Russian BTR-80 APCs, Mi-17 helicopters, anti-tank missile systems, and a variety of small arms are in service with the Turkish Armed Forces.

Russian arms exporter to present T-90S tank, Night Hunter copter at Turkey defense fair

The arms exporter has analysed the needs of major regional consumers of weapons and military equipment taking into account the recent local conflictsT-90S tank

T-90S tank

MOSCOW, May 5. / TASS /. Russia’s main arms exporter Rosoboronexport will present at the International Defense Industry Fair IDEF-2015 in Turkey about 20 samples of Russian defense products, including the T-90S tank and Mi-28NE combat helicopter, head of Rosoboronexport’s delegation Anatoly Aksyonov told TASS in an interview on Tuesday.

“The Middle East and North Africa account for a significant proportion of all Rosoboronexport supplies. In this connection, during preparations for the IDEF-2015 international defense exhibition we’ve made efforts to analyse the needs of major regional consumers of weapons and military equipment, including taking into account the recent local conflicts,” said Aksyonov. According to him, about 20 Russian defense industry samples have been chosen as a result, which, according to the company, will evoke the greatest interest among the region’s potential customers.

Rosoboronexport has listed among the main aircraft samples in the military products supplies the Yakovlev Yak-130 training plane, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jet, the Beriyev Be-200 plane, the Kamov Ka-226 light multi-purpose helicopter, Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter, Mi-28NE combat helicopter, Mi-171SH military transport helicopter and Ka-52 combat reconnaissance and attack helicopter.

The ground force component of the Russian military products is represented by the upgraded T-90S tank, BTR-80A armoured personnel carrier, BMP-3F infantry combat vehicle and a tank support combat vehicle.

Among the naval equipment Rosoboronexport named the Amur-1650 diesel-electric submarine of Project 677E, Gepard-3.9 frigate, the Mirazh patrol boat of Project 14310, as well as the Mangust speed patrol boat of Project 12150.

JSC Rosoboronexport is the sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports/imports of defence-related and dual use products, technologies and services. The corporation was set up by a decree of the President of Russia and is charged with implementation of the policy of the state in the field of military-technical cooperation between Russia and foreign countries. The official status of Rosoboronexport guarantees the Russian government’s support in all export operations.

Russia has been taking part in IDEF since 1995. More than 50 delegations from 17 countries visited Rosoboronexport’s stand in 2013, suggesting keen interest in Russian arms in the region.

The Russian-Turkish military-technical cooperation dates back to March 16, 1921 when the Treaty of Friendship and Brotherhood was signed between Soviet Russia and Turkey. Upon its conclusion, Russia began providing financial and military-technical aid to the Turkish government. Turkey’s accession to NATO did not become an obstacle to further development of ties with Russia. As a result, Russian BTR-80 APCs, Mi-17 helicopters, anti-tank missile systems, and a variety of small arms are in service with the Turkish Armed Forces.

Supplies of Antey-2500 missiles to Turkey fully within its powers to decide

MOSCOW, May 5. /TASS/. Possible supplies of the Antey-2500 antiaircraft missile systems to Turkey stay fully within the latter country’s powers to decide, Anatoly Aksyonov who chairs a delegation of the Russian state weaponry exporting corporation to the 12th international defence industry fair IDEF’15 told TASS.

IDEF’15 will be held in Istanbul from May 5 through to May 8. It organizers say more than 700 companies from 46 countries will be represented.

The largest displays are those of Turkey with 265 companies and the US (101 companies). German, British and French pavilions at the fair will also be impressive.

Russia will be represented by the state corporation Rotech and its subsidiary, Rosoboronexport.

In September 2013, the Turkish Defence Industry Executive Committee crossed Rosoboronexport out of the list of participants in a bidding contest for supplying long-range antiaircraft missile systems under the T-LORAMIDS programme, Aksyonov recalled.

“In the light of it, the possibilities of such supplies stay much rather within the scope of decision-making powers of the Turkish side,” he said.

On September 2014, the committee secretariat decided to continue detailed talks on the issue with the Chinese company manufacturing FD-2000 complexes. Along with it, the Turks drew up a shortlist where the Chinese option occupies the top position, the US stands second with the Patriot missiles and the SMART systems manufactured by the Italian-French corporation Eurosam turned up at the third place.

The Antey-2500 complexes were also put up for the bidding but it withdrew from the contest upon studying the proposals.

Turkish Army plans getting twelve complexes at the first stage of the project and to pay $ 3.5 billion to $ 4.0 billion for them.

Turkey is expected to take the final decision upon the end of talks with the participants on the transfers of technologies and other crucial matters upon the end of talks.