Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, has agreed to resume the production of the airborne warning and control systems for Turkish spy planes, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Friday.
According to the report, this would allow the long-delayed transfer of four Boeing 737 AWACS planes, that were built for a total of $1.6 billion, to be completed. More importantly, the decision, which would have to be approved by the Defense Ministry, may indicate that the government is softening its stance on defense exports to Turkey, the report said.
Turkey had ordered the 737-700 AWACs plane from Boeing in 2002, and Elta had committed to equip them with early warning systems for about $100 million.
Elta is the only producer of such systems for the Boeing 737. The four planes were to be delivered in 2006, but the systems integration took longer than expected, and only two were delivered before the deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations began.
After the rift with Turkey erupted following the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in May 2010, the Defense Ministry forbade Israel's defense industries to export products to Turkey, going so far as to cancel contracts that had been signed with Turkey by Elbit and IAI.
However, because the AWACS contract involved Boeing, it was only suspended, not canceled. According to the Hurriyet report, the Elta decision followed Boeing's efforts to urge the Israeli company to complete the production of the systems for Turkey. The newspaper Defense News, reporting in March on the issue, quoted an Elta spokesman as saying that Boeing and Elta were making efforts to complete delivery of the systems.
According to foreign reports, these early-warning systems are designed to detect aircraft, ships and vehicles at long ranges. The radars on the aircraft allow operators to distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft from a distance of thousands of kilometers, and aid in managing air and ground operations.