Israel has supplied advanced electronic warfare systems to the Turkish Air Force, marking the first exchange of military equipment with Turkey since relations between the two countries deteriorated in the wake of the Israeli Navy raid on the Mavi Marmara ferry in May 2010.
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The deal was reported on Sunday in the Turkish newspaper Zaman and confirmed on Monday by a senior Israeli defense source. The source stressed that the deal was finally approved due to American pressure as well as Israeli attempts to improve relations with Turkey, recognizing the tension between Turkey and Iran over the Syrian civil war.
The electronic warfare systems, which will significantly upgrade the capabilities of the Turkish Air Force early-warning planes, are made by ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries and were ordered for the Turkish aircraft by Boeing, the American aircraft manufacturer.
In 2002, Boeing won a contract to supply Turkey with four new Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, which are Boeing 737 airliners modified to carry large radar and other military electronic systems. As part of the $200 million deal, Boeing ordered electronic warfare systems from ELTA for the Turkish aircraft. The planes were supplied to Turkey by Boeing three years ago and entered operational service.
The Israeli systems were supposed to upgrade the planes in 2011 but following the rapid deterioration in relations between the two countries following the flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, ambassadors were recalled and there were concerns about the close ties between Turkey, Hamas and Iran, the Defense Ministry decided to curtail all arms deals with Turkey.
The decision led to the cancellation of a joint ELTA-Elbit project to develop aerial reconnaissance pods for Turkish F-16 fighter-jets and a freeze in the supply of the electronic warfare systems for the Boeing AWACS.
In the past Israel has been a major supplier of weapon systems to Turkey, including the upgrade of M-60 main battle tanks and the supply of ten IAI Heron unmanned aerial vehicles.
Because the AWACS electronic warfare deal was not signed between ELTA and the Turkish government but rather through Boeing, Boeing and senior American administration officials pressured the Israeli government, as high up as Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to approve the deal.
For over a year, Israel withstood the pressure but ultimately decided a few months ago to allow ELTA to supply the systems. A few weeks ago they were flown to Ankara and are currently being integrated into the Turkish Boeings.