The Turkish army is about to terminate a contract to operate Aerostar unmanned air systems supplied by Israeli company Aeronautics Defense Systems, as ties between the two countries continue to deteriorate.
News of the planned cancellation and return of three UAS emerged from Turkish sources late last week, although Aeronautics president Avi Leumi on 4 November said that he did not know about any such decision.
Israel became one of Turkey's top arms suppliers in the mid-1990s. In 2005, a deal was signed for the purchase of the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron UAS, with Elbit Systems also part of the contract, as the supplier of the ground control equipment. Programme delays and urgent requirements prompted Ankara to also purchase Aerostar air vehicles, but in recent months Turkish sources say there were "operational problems" with the Aeronautics-supplied type.
With a 7.5m (24.6ft) wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of 210kg (462lb), the Aerostar offers a 12h endurance.
Aeronautics Defense Systems
If confirmed, the Turkish cancellation will deliver a second blow to Aeronautics within a month, after Poland's defence ministry in early October axed a $35 million deal to purchase two Aerostar systems. Warsaw is also seeking compensation after delays in fielding the equipment in Afghanistan. The company has also encountered further difficulties within recent months, due to a disagreement between its shareholders.
Despite the severance of ties between Turkey and Israel in the wake of the latter's interception of a peace flotilla heading to Gaza in May 2010, the Turkish armed forces continue to operate their Heron UAS.