Turkey says it no longer needs Canadian military drone technology
Stung by the federal government’s decision to ban the export of advanced Canadian drone optics and targeting systems to Turkey, the country’s largest drone producer says Turkish arms manufacturers have developed their own technology and no longer need Canadian devices.
Foreign Minister Marc Garneau announced last week that Ottawa had canceled arms export licenses for Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone systems after a review found “credible evidence” that the technology Canada had been diverted to Azerbaijan without Ottawa’s consent and had been used in the fight against Armenian forces in Nagorno. Karabakh last fall.
In an angry tweet posted shortly after Garneau’s announcement, Selçuk Bayraktar, a senior executive at Turkish drone producer Baykar, said Canada was canceling export permits for optical sensors and targeting systems produced. by L3 Harris WESCAM in Burlington, Ontario. will not harm Turkey’s booming drone industry, according to an Anadolu Agency report.
Bayraktar – who is the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – also warned that “if Turkey decides not to sell armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Canada during an emergency, it could cause him serious problems as the Turkey is one of the four countries in the world that manufacture combat-tested drones, ”Anadolu reported.
These WESCAM pods for their drones are really very important. Otherwise, they wouldn’t call.– Defense expert Chris Kilford on drone production in Turkey
Baykar did not respond to Radio Canada International’s request for an interview with Bayraktar.
Canadian defense experts say they doubt the optical sensors produced in Turkey are as good as WESCAM’s and argue that Ankara’s repeated attempts to overturn the ban at the highest political levels – which included personal openness from Erdogan to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last spring – strongly suggest the opposite.
Chris Kilford, a defense and security expert and former Canadian defense attaché in Turkey, said there was no doubt that the Canadian ban had upset Ankara.
“What we have seen since all this happened is that President Erdogan called the prime minister at one point, the Turkish foreign minister called our foreign minister and the minister of Defense in Turkey called our Minister of Defense, “said Kilford mentioned.
“And what does that really tell you? It tells you that these WESCAM pods for their drones are really, really important. Otherwise, they wouldn’t call.”
Kilford said the optical sensor and targeting system pod developed by Turkish arms maker ASELSAN would be around 20 kilograms heavier than WESCAM’s MX-15 pod fitted to the Bayraktar TB2s.
And unlike WESCAM sensors, Kilford said, ASELSAN’s product has not been combat tested in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh – where Turkish drones have been shown to be so effective that Selçuk Bayraktar recently received the ‘Order of Karabakh by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. for the role its drones played in defeating the Armenian forces.
“A rule that I often apply to Turkish headlines or statements is that when they say ‘no damage’ it’s the exact opposite,” Kilford said.
“Indeed, WESCAM pods are arguably the best available and have been proven to work in three recent combat situations across different terrains and conditions. Anything available to replace WESCAM pods is unlikely to be as good as the customers. strangers will also notice it. “
Turkey broke the rules: defense expert
Christian Leuprecht, a professor at Queen’s University who specializes in defense and security issues, said that while Turkey has worked hard for decades to develop its own homeland defense capability, around 70% of its arms industry continues to “essentially build other people’s businesses. under license.”
“And keep in mind that other countries, like France, have frozen or suspended permits,” Leuprecht said.
This means that Turkey has cut itself off from supplies produced by several key allies, he added.
“And this is the crux of the matter – Turkey has violated its end-use guarantees,” Leuprecht said.
In order for the multilateral export control system to work, he said, the repercussions for Turkey must themselves be multilateral – both to contain Turkey and to send a clear message that the conditions of the trade permits. export controls must be observed.
“In Turkey’s case, we are already seeing the next confrontation with the brewing of Western military devices – its naval adventures protecting its oil claims on the seabed against Greece and Cyprus,” Leuprecht said, referring to the tensions between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.
Given the history between Turkey and Greece, this confrontation “could easily go awry,” Leuprecht added.
“And again, Canadian technology is at stake. So it’s really about looking to the future, rather than just looking back.”
Turkey highlights Canadian arms sales to Saudi Arabia
Turkey in turn accused Canada of maintaining a double standard, pointing out the continued delivery of arms to Saudi Arabia despite the country’s leading role in the conflict in Yemen and its poor record in the field. of human rights.
Turkey has been a major customer of the Canadian defense industry.
According to documents provided by the federal government to the parliamentary committee responsible for examining the issue of arms export permits, Canada exported more than $ 446 million in high-tech equipment to the arms industry Turkey’s booming national since 2014.
Bessma Momani, professor at the University of Waterloo and senior researcher at the Center for International Governance Innovation, said the issue of arms exports warranted serious public debate in Canada.
Momani said the defense industry makes a significant contribution to the Canadian economy. According to the federal government, the industry contributed more than $ 7 billion to GDP and nearly 64,000 jobs to the Canadian economy in 2018.
“It’s pretty important and if you look at the jobs, these are manufacturing jobs and they have a lot of high value-added potential in terms of jobs of the future. This is where you want technology investments to go in terms of AI (artificial intelligence), in terms of quantum [computing]Momani said.
“If we were to stand on a high moral ground and say we shouldn’t export any of this stuff, that’s fine. But someone else will.”