Written by ThomasST and Edvin Watson exclusively for SouthFront.
Ukraine is emerging as a key “blood donor” to the Turkish war industry, assuring a mass supply of its military technology to as many spheres as Ankara needs.
It may seem that relations between Ankara and Kiev remain tenuous, as all the burden have fallen on the Russian-Turkish “deals”, mainly due to the Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems. In fact, the transfer of Ukrainian military technology to Turkey, future and already existing cooperation, may lead to an almost “unification” of the military industries of the two countries.
Where Ukraine lags, Turkey comes to contribute, and where Turkey lags, Ukraine comes to “fill the gaps” with the technology it has, as it is a country that, during the period of the Soviet Union, had a very developed technology and scientific potential. Its industrial facilities in such areas as aircraft production, as well as anti-tank ammunition, battle tanks or the space exploration, were maintained and even developed after the dissolution of the USSR.
The U.S., Crimean Tatars and Turkey
The data from the Ukrainian-Turkish “deals” for the recent years, and especially after the events in 2014, including the Crimean annexation that followed, are impressive. Particularly, in the last two years the very close cooperation between the two countries in terms of military technology has been running at a fast pace.
The then-US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Ross Pyatt, the current US ambassador in Athens, along with then-Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who now is holding a key position in the US State Department, were handing out cookies to protesters in Kiev’s Maidan Square in 2014. They contributed to a large extent to overthrow of the then pro-Russian president V. Yanukovich, what led to the annexation of Crimea.
Despite the fact that Pyatt is constantly denouncing the “Russian threat” and declaring himself as an advocate of Greek rights against the aggressive Turkey, he has never commented the armaments “deals” between Ankara and Kiev, tacitly supporting Ukrainian and Turkish interests.
As he did for several years as an ambassador in Ukraine, even after leaving the country in 2016, he is repeatedly defending Kiev with his posts on social media.
Now, when Turkish-Ukrainian military cooperation is dramatically deepening, what would be the position of the US? Especially, when it is constantly pushing Athens to develop its relations with Kiev.
Besides a tacit approval from Washington, Kiev and Ankara have an official motive for rapprochement on the international area. The leadership of the Crimean Tatars, a Muslim element in Crimea, for whom Turkey historically became a “God father”, have been sheltered in Kiev since 2014.
Therefore, Crimea, which became one of the causes of confrontation between the collective West and Russia, now, is a source of friction between Russia and Turkey. Nevertheless, the two countries maintain a strategic alliance, which, in addition to the S-400 purchase, is based on the cooperation in different areas. There are such joint projects as the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the Turkish Stream gas pipelines.
The data presented by Ukraine and Turkey clearly show that the relations between Kiev and Ankara in terms of military technology are not limited to some “armaments programs”, but represent a very deep cooperation.
In October 2020, Minister of Defense of Ukraine Andriy Taran and President of Defense Industries of the Republic of Turkey İsmail Demir signed a Memorandum between the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and the Presidency of Defense Industries of the Republic of Turkey on the projects in the defense sphere. The document outlined the intentions of the parties to launch and implement joint projects for the construction of warships, UAVs and all types of turbine engines.
This was confirmed by the Ukrainian Ambassador in Turkey, Andrii Sybiha, who claimed:
“The success of the Ukrainian-Turkish cooperation is due to the fact that in the context of bilateral cooperation, the two countries do not focus mainly on the arms trade, but on mutual development of new technologies “.
- Engines for Turkish Gezgin missiles
More recently, the officials in Ankara claimed that Turkey was interested in acquiring Ukrainian engine technology for its “Gezgin” missile project, something that was presented as a counterpart of the American Tomahawk missile. The Gezgin project is designed to develop conventional long-range strike capabilities for naval platforms that should have a range of about 1000 kilometers.
In December 2019, General Designer of Ukrainian company “Ivchenko-Progress” Igor Kravchenko said that a contract with the Turks for the supply of engines has already been signed and their production has started:
“We are making AI-35 for Turkey. This is for a cruise missile. We have now signed a contract for this engine. “
In October 2020, the Defense Express news agency claimed that the “Ivchenko-Progress” signed contracts for the supply of components for 12 AI-35 engines. They should be delivered in Turkey in 2021, where they are going to be used in the production of new cruise missiles. Ukraine willing to “share” its technology, the Turkish side requested the transfer of technology, so that it could build aircraft engines for various aims.
- Turkish-Ukrainian AN-188 aircraft
According to the Ukrainian website, Defense Express, the country’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrii Sybiha, giving the scope of Ukrainian-Turkish relations, said:
“Given Ukraine’s experience in developing weapons systems and Turkey’s dynamic strategy for developing its own defense industry, the locomotive for bilateral strategic cooperation is the aerospace industry.”
He added: “That is why the agenda of the consortia (Ukraine, Turkey) is based on the co-production of aircraft based on Antonov aircraft, as well as aircraft and flying engines based on the experience of the state-owned company, Ivchenko-Progress”.
He even expressed his hope that in the medium term, there will be a co-production of an aircraft of the “Antonov family”.
Thus, during the Eurasia Airshow 2018 in Antalya, Ukrainian state enterprise “Antonov” has officially presented “the Ukrainian-Turkish project of the An-188 aircraft” that should be produced with Turkish Aerospace Industry. For the first time, the AN-188 project was announced in Ukraine in 2014 and presented by “Antonov” in 2015. The realization of this program had reportedly begun in 2016 at Turkish initiative, and the construction should be finished in 2022-2023.
Director of the program Vladimir Shmyrev claimed that An-188 was a military transport turbojet with a carrying capacity of up to 50 tons. It should be able to transport military equipment of all types, construction equipment, helicopters, up to 300 troops, as well as humanitarian supplies and containers.
“At the same time, the An-188 will be able to embark on various airfields, including unpaved ones, and land on short strips with a length of only 600-800 m, ” Antonov’s press service quoted Shmyrev.
- “Space exploration”
In March 2015, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Turkey and Ukraine were launching a multibillion-dollar space program and will cooperate in the space sector. Later, the head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine, Oleg Urusky, announced that Ukraine would take part in the creation of Turkey’s rocket and space complex. In addition, in October 2016, similar claims were made by then Turkish Trade and Customs Minister Bulent Tufenkci.
Turkey is reportedly interested in Ukraine’s satellite surveillance program. This was stated by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Industries Oleh Urusky in August 2020, when he met with Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank.
The Ukrainian official said that now “there are talks held with the Republic of Turkey about the possibility of commercializing the missile industry to create joint launch vehicles for the possibility of launching from the territory of third countries.”
Now, neither Ukraine nor Turkey can provide a place for the construction of a cosmodrome.
However, there were only claims, and no significant steps in cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine in the area of space exploration have not been done, yet.
It should be noted that months ago, Tayyip Erdogan “promised” to the Turks that Turkey would become a space power. Despite a dramatic economic and health crisis in the country.
Among other potential partners for Ankara’s space program, there are Azerbaijan, Japan, India and Russia.
- VHF tactical communication systems
In 2016, the $ 43.635 million-worth contract for the supply of Turkish-made VHF tactical communication systems to the Armed Forces of Ukraine was signed between the Ukrainian state-owned enterprise “Spetstechnoexport” and Turkish Aselsan company.
“The procurement of ASELSAN Software Defined Military Radio Family products, having state of the art technology, software defined architecture, multiple waveforms and electronic protection measures against electronic warfare threats is within the scope of this Contract.” – ASELSAN’s report reads.
Recently, in March 2021, it was reported that units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine would receive the latest US L3Harris radio stations. They should be installed on all armored vehicles of the Ukrainian army. The main radio stations for almost all units of the Armed Forces will be produced by the US L3Harris Technologies, except the combat units of the Air Force that require specialized radio communications. Turkish ASELSAN radio stations will be used in the area defense forces.
- Engines for Turkish helicopters
Ukrainian engines should be produced for Turkish attack helicopters, TAI ATAK-2, developed by the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), as stated by its president and CEO, Temel Kotil. The contract for supply of Ukrainian engines was signed in April 2021.
ATAK-II is the same class helicopter as U.S.-made Boeing AH-64 Apache and Russia’s Mi-28NM Night Hunter. It will have a maximum take-off weight of 10 tons. It should be equipped with a 30-mm cannon, missile armament from the latest T129 versions and modern avionics. The helicopter is scheduled to perform its first flight in 2024.
TAI ATAK-2 needs a turboshaft engine up to 2500 hp. Probably, the Turks will choose one of the modifications of the Soviet TV3-117 engines, which are serially produced by Ukrainian Motor Sich.
According to the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, Oleg Urusky, the creation of a consortium in Ukraine and Turkey for the production of UAVs is currently discussed.
For his part, the Ukrainian ambassador to Turkey said: “Cooperation in this area does not stop, and has further dynamics, as the Turkish Akinji UAVs will acquire Ukrainian engines.”
According to the reports, AI-450T engines, designed at the Ivchenko-Progress, are already used on the Bayraktar Akinci strike drone, which is currently being tested.
Ukraine was among the first countries to acquire Turkish Bayraktar TB2.
In 2019, Baykar Makina won a $69 million contract to sell six Bayraktar TB2 UAVs along with ammunition to Ukraine. Kiev purchased and tested Bayraktar TV2. The drones are equipped with Turkish-made high-precision MAM-L aerial bombs.
In total, within the first agreement, the Ukrainian military received six drones, two (according to some sources – three) ground control stations and related equipment, including simulators. Earlier, Kiev reported on the supply of ammunition (200 missiles) for drones in accordance with the agreement. In addition, in Turkey at the end of September 2019, 50 military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine completed training for the use and maintenance of Turkish-made UAVs.
In April 2021, Vladimir Zelensky payed an official visit to Ankara. Supply and joint production of UAVs reportedly was one of the main topics during the talks.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine intend to purchase 48 Bayraktar TV2.
Previously, the UAV was equipped with a Canadian Rotax 912 engine with a 100 hp push-type propeller. Following the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Canadian company Bombardier Recreational Products, which owns the Austrian Rotax, announced the termination of the engeens’ supply. Now, Turkey is looking for enother partner.
Ukrainian Motor Sich was on the list of partners for the production of engines for Turkish drones. There is a agreement between Ukrspetsexport and Baykar Defense that was signed in 2019 to establish joint production of Bayraktar TB2 and equip them with engines of Motor Sich .
- Ukrainian active protection system Zaslon
In 2017, the first export contract was signed with the Turkish company Aselsan. Zaslon systems produced at Ukrainian facilities was supplied to Turkey, where they were installed on the Turkish M60-A3 Sabra tanks under the name of Akkor Pulat systems.
Akkor Pulat is a Ukrainian “Zaslon-L”, produced under license in Turkey. The complex includes a radar that scans the area around the tank within a radius of up to 2.5 meters, as well as four to six modules with protective ammunition.
Turkey was the first to test Ukrainian systems in real combat in Syria.
- Anti-tank missiles “Skif” (Stugna-P system).
In 2018, Aselsan tested new anti-tank missiles “Skif” created in cooperation with the Ukrainian design bureau “Luch”.
ATGM “Skif” is an export version of the anti-tank complex “Stugna-P” made in Ukraine. It is equipped with 130 and 152 mm missiles in transport and launch containers with tandem cumulative and high-explosive fragmentation warheads. It is a “copy” of the Russian Kornet.
Skifs were also delivered by Aselsan to the Qatari Armed Forces under the name of Serdar.
- Joint production of corvettes
In 2020, the “Okean” shipyard in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv signed an agreement with Turkey for the supply of a series warships for the Naval Forces of Ukraine, according to an intergovernmental agreement, which have been previously signed by the presidents of the states.
The contracts provide the construction of five corvettes of the Turkish MILGEM project (Ada type) for the Ukrainian Navy. The first corvette will be built in Turkey. Probably, the Istanbul Naval Shipyard, which was building these ships for the Turkish Navy, will be used for the construction of the first vessel. The other four corvettes should be built in Ukraine at the Okean shipyard. The lead ship is supposed to be laid down in Turkey in 2021 and delivered to the Ukrainian fleet by the end of 2024.
In December 2019, the Ukrainian State Company Ukrspetsexport exported to the Turkish company K.B.A.T. Ithalat Ihracat Mumessillik Ve Danismanlik Ticaret Ltd. the first batch of military goods under a contract for the supply of two S-125M1 Neva-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems totaling $30 million. They were reportedly sent to the Government of National Accord in Libya.
Turkey and Ukraine are looking for diversification of their military supplies. Since 2014, Kiev has been trying to replace military equipment and components from Russia. While Ankara is securing its military cooperation, since the US and a number of European countries are not reliable partners for Turkey any more.
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