Experts call for more transparency in Turkish arms buys

Experts call for more transparency in Turkish arms buys

Experts call for more transparency in Turkish arms buys

ÜM?T ENG?NSOY
As defense-industry purchases conducted during the past three decades come under scrutiny for alleged corruption, experts have called for more transparency to avoid such claims in the future. “The remedy is transparency, more openness to the public to prevent potential cases of corruption in this critically important sector,” one Ankara-based defense analyst, who asked that his name not be used, said Thursday.

The Democratic Left Party, or DSP, a small party in Parliament, recently called for a parliamentary probe of a multibillion-dollar contract with the United States in the 1980s for the purchase of F-16 fighter jets for the Turkish Air Force.
The DSP referred to corruption claims made at the time against retired Gen. Tahsin ?ahinkaya, a former Air Force commander and one of the leaders of the 1980 military coup, and urged the opening of a parliamentary investigation into these claims.
?ahinkaya is accused of accepting bribes to promote F-16 over F-18 jets.
Turkey selected the F-16 as its Air Force’s main fighter jet and more than 230 F-16s were jointly produced with the United States at a plant near Ankara between the late 1980s and 1999.
In an interview with private TV channel Habertürk on Thursday night, ?ahinkaya flatly denied the allegations against him and said he had made a major contribution to the establishment of the aircraft industry in Turkey.
“In fact, I thought that Turkey should buy the two-engine F-18s, but other generals decided to go with the F-16s,” he said in the interview.
Tank modernization case
In a separate case, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said earlier this year that a probe had been launched into a 2002 contract for the upgrade of Turkish M60 tanks by an Israeli company.
In the 1990s, the United States granted more than 900 M60 main battle tanks to Turkey as part of a NATO program. Ankara subsequently decided to upgrade 170 of these tanks and opened an international tender, in which Israel Military Industries and the U.S. firm General Motors competed.
Turkey selected IMI in 2002 and signed a nearly $690 million contract with the Israeli company. But the program suffered from a series of delays, mainly due to technical hitches, and could be completed only last spring.
Some Turkish defense specialists have meanwhile suggested that the modernization of the tanks could have been carried out domestically.
“One key problem about defense deals is the secrecy around them,” said the Ankara-based defense analyst. “Many elements and details of arms contracts are classified for both security-related and commercial reasons, and this situation hurts transparency.”
The analyst suggested, however, that more information could be provided to the public “at any stage of the purchasing process” while maintaining “security-related and commercial secrets.”
A second Ankara-based defense analyst, who also wished to remain anonymous, said corruption does not only occur in foreign deals. “Domestic defense equipment acquisition also should be subject to the principle of more transparency,” the analyst said.
An American case
The secrecy surrounding defense deals makes corruption in weapons contracts a universal problem. One recent, large-scale example concerned a nearly $35 billion program to purchase tanker aircraft for aerial refueling of other planes in the United States Air Force.
In the early 2000s, the Pentagon was interested in leasing Boeing KC-767 tankers from the Boeing Co. on a sole-source basis. The lease contract was turned into a purchase deal in 2003. In December 2003, however, the Pentagon announced the project was to be frozen due to an investigation into corruption allegations against one if its former procurement staffers – an employee who had moved to Boeing in January 2003.
That official pled guilty of criminal wrongdoing and was sentenced to nine months in jail for “negotiating a job with Boeing at the same she was involved in contracts with the company.” The tanker-aircraft contract was then formally canceled.
Several years later, Boeing and the European defense giant Airbus are now competing for the U.S. tanker-aircraft deal in a renewed competition.


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