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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Fishy story: Turkey claims they almost shot down Israeli UAV

From Today's Zaman:

An Israeli Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was observed spying above the 14th Hawk B. Brigade Command in Hatay’s Kırıkhan district for four hours, the Taraf daily claimed on Tuesday.

The aerial vehicle was hovering over the brigade command post in order to capture pictures of missile batteries and radar equipment.

According to the daily’s report, the Israeli drone was first noticed by a military lieutenant, who saw a white light flashing in the sky. Later he asked an air defense senior sergeant to verify what he had seen, who confirmed that a drone was hovering over the command post.

All the military personnel then left the post in preparation for a possible attack.

Radar followed the Israeli drone as military officials waited for the order to shoot it down. Higher ranked military officials did not reply to the radar center’s call before the drone moved out of range.

At the same time as the events in Hatay, the Diyarbakır 2nd Air Force Command Strike Center was also tracking the drone. Upon an insistent request of the Hatay command, the Diyarbakır command center sent two F-16 fighter jets to the region, where they tracked and followed the drones, and eventually returned to their base in Diyarbakır.

In a related story, Turkey purchased 10 Herons from Israel in a 2004 arms deal at a cost of about $183 million. Turkey has been using Israeli-made Heron drones in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). But the Herons purchased by Turkey were not able to reach the altitudes indicated in the contract, and five of the Herons had engine-related problems. These five and at least two others that had other problems were sent to Israel for repair.

There were significant delays in the return of the drones, prompting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to publicly complain in September. This, intelligence sources say, sped up the delivery process, and Israel recently returned all of the Herons. Israeli technical personnel in charge of renovating the crafts left Turkey due to security reasons, following a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel in September 2011.
I am not a military expert, but as far as I can tell:

  • Herons probably do not have flashing lights 
  • Herons don't hover
  • Herons don't carry missiles
  • The story first talks about one drone, and then "drones"
  • The second part of the story with the F-16s tracking the "drones" seems inconsistent with the first part. It seems strange that Hatay command could "insist" that Diyabakir send jets to the area without going through a normal military chain of command.

Also, there are other countries besides Israel that use Herons (if they were positively identified as such) and, of course, other surveillance drones.

It seems that if this was true there would be an official complaint, although I suppose that pride might play a part here.

Hatay juts out of Turkey and borders Syria as well as the Mediterranean. It would be interesting to know which direction the drone supposedly left Turkish airspace.

(h/t Yoel)