'Terrorist State' or Not, Israel Expected to Sell Drones to Turkey

Deal to include drones used by IDF during Operation Cast Lead to kill Hamas militants.

Turkey is expected to receive its first shipment of attack drones from Israel next month, despite the comments by its prime minister during the Gaza offensive that Israel was a terrorist state. Turkey is also expected to receive another shipment of Heron drones from Israel.

According to Turkish sources and reports in the Turkish media, the predominantly Muslim country under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to buy drones known as the Harpy. This armed UAV, developed by Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries, participated in the Gaza offensive and killed Hamas militants.

Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul was reportedly impressed with the Harpy's performance on his visit to Israel in October. Another factor in Turkey's decision to buy from Israel may be the delay in a final decision by the United States on whether to sell Turkey Predator drones.

Turkish sources say Turkey would rather buy the Predator because of its rich combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. One Turkish source said the reports about the deal with Israel were leaked to try to persuade the Americans to cut through the red tape and approve the sale.

Turkey and Israel signed a deal for the supply of Heron drones to the tune of $180 million in 2005, but delays and malfunctions in the cameras mounted on the drones pushed back delivery by more than one year.

In December, Turkey received two Heron UAVs, and another three units are expected to be shipped in February. Despite Erdogan's harsh statements about Israel during the Gaza operation, Israeli sources say the two countries still cooperate on security matters.

"The two countries are connected by their defense needs," one Israeli source said. "The Turkish defense establishment is behaving as though there were no diplomatic crisis, and the diplomats are behaving as though there were no military cooperation."