ANKARA: Iraq has reached a preliminary deal to purchase a multimillion arms package from Turkey, including armed drones, attack helicopters and electronic warfare systems, Iraqi defense minister Juma Inad said on Friday in televised remarks.
Juma told the Iraqi channel Al Sharqiya that Baghdad had reached an understanding with Ankara to purchase 12 T-129 ATAK helicopters that are produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries, six Koral electronic warfare systems manufactured by Aselsan, and an unspecified number of TB2 Bayraktar armed drones as part of the deal.
One Turkish defense industry source, speaking anonymously, told Breaking Defense that the negotiations between Turkey and Iraq had been underway for more than a year on the TB2, which Turkey has recently exported to a number of countries, including Azerbaijan, Libya and Poland. The source said Iraq was interested in at least a dozen armed drones.
Despite the comments from Juma, a senior Turkish government official said the deal wasn’t sealed yet — in part because of lingering questions about whether the helicopter sale will receive necessary clearance from the United States.
The T129 relies on two LHTEC T800-4A engines, which are manufactured through a joint venture between the US firm Honeywell and the British company Rolls-Royce. US law requires foreign companies to obtain export permits for high-end defense articles, including the engines.
“It is unlikely that the US Congress will approve the sales due to anti-Turkish views,” the first Turkish official said. “Yet, we will try.”
Earlier this year, Turkey managed to get the permits for 6 T129 helicopters that were sold to the Philippines by using a loophole: that sales under a certain amount doesn’t need Congressional approval.
Senior members of the US Congress have negative views of the NATO ally, due to its regional and domestic policies, including Turkish military operations in Syria and Azerbaijan.
Turkey and Iraq had been working to improve relations since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi assumed office last year. Even as Iraq has routinely protested Turkish incursions in the north of the country against the Kurdish militants, al Kahdimi continues to enjoy friendly relations with Ankara.
Last week, Ismail Demir, president of Turkish Defense Industries, signed a defense industry cooperation deal with his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Saheb al-Daraji in Istanbul to directly procure, develop, and sale of defense articles and share technical information.
The senior Turkish official said Turkey would like to establish closer relations with Iraq in the areas of defense and security. “We have goodwill to progress this relationship, but there are, of course, certain challenges,” the official added.
One concern Turkish officials have — which is likely shared with the US – is that powerful pro-Iran militias that are folded into the Iraqi military could try to get their hands over the sensitive Turkish technology. “We are considerate of this possibility,” the official said.
One Turkish procurement official said that Turkey believes it should provide weapons to its neighboring country for its own interest. “It is better for us to get the Iraqi government buying Turkish defense products then purchasing them from somewhere else,” the official said. “We would like to be in Iraq for the long run by also providing maintenance and spare parts.”
The official also said that Ankara didn’t have any concerns that its TB2 technology could be stolen.
Iraq Closes In On Drones, Helicopters And EW From Turkey – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Aaron Mehta for breakingdefense.com