Barış Terkoğlu

Either the minister or the president is lying

04 Ocak 2024 Perşembe

Without eyes, there would be no seeing. Without a speaker, the visible could not be explained.

We forget the bitter news when it comes one by one during the day. When we fall as martyrs together, unfortunately, we only talk about it for three days. I am talking about the 12 soldiers we lost in Iraq. Last week, I asked retired soldiers who participated in cross-border operations, 'What are we doing wrong, and what should we do to prevent another martyrdom?' One of them was Güray Belhan, the only colonel who participated in four cross-border operations between 2019-2021.

You may say how well you did. However, I learned that on January 1, when Belhan went to the military club with his daughter, he was turned away at the door with the warning, 'Your entry to military social facilities is banned.'

In short, we are not supposed to discuss this topic!

So what are we going to do? Of course, we will continue to talk about 'preventing new martyrs.'


Thinking this way, I called Retired Military Judge Ahmet Zeki Üçok. Üçok was also an air force colonel. He had done a study based on open sources about the incident in which 12 martyrs were lost. He began to describe the martyrs one by one:

'According to open sources, after July 15, four major operations in Syria (Operation Euphrates Shield - 71 martyrs, Operation Olive Branch - 54 soldiers - 9 civilian martyrs, Operation Peace Spring - 10 martyrs - 100 wounded, Operation Spring Shield - 5 martyrs) and ten major operations in Northern Iraq (Operations Dicle Shield, Claw-1, Claw-2, Claw-3, Claw-Eagle, Claw-Tiger, Claw-Eagle-2, Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunder, Claw-Lock, Claw-Sword) were conducted. With our latest martyrs, 100 of our soldiers have been martyred in the Claw Operations alone.'

In total, there were about 20 operations, and according to official statements, there were 249 martyrs. I asked him, 'Why are there increasing reports of martyrs?'

"The fight against terrorism is very challenging and long, but it is necessary for the survival of our country. Currently, almost 40% of the TAF's most combative combat units are involved in cross-border operations. This is very difficult and not something that all armed forces can achieve or that every country can easily overcome. Especially in recent times, the establishment of permanent bases by settling in about 30-40 km inside Northern Iraq as part of the Claw Operations is seen as a conceptual change for the TAF. The main reason for the debate is the reality that deployment at a depth of 30-40 km will lead to more tragic incidents like the ones that occurred on December 22-23. The most effective method of ensuring border security is believed to be through small unit operations like ambushes and raids within 2-4 km (maximum 5 km) from the border line, and those who hold this view criticize the TAF command for these debates."

When did this conceptual change occur?

"The first of the Claw Operations started on May 28, 2019. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, while managing the operation at the zero point of the border on June 6, 2019, stated in his announcement, ‘We will not leave the region until the last terrorist is neutralized,’ thus initiating this process."


Defense Ministry Press and Public Relations Advisor Rear Admiral Zeki Aktürk, a senior ministry official, also targeted soldiers speaking in publications. What would Üçok say about this?

"I find it very inappropriate and disrespectful for an admiral who only goes to the mountain to ski or a mysterious senior Ministry official who is reluctant even to reveal his name to make such statements. It’s a shame in the new TAF to belittle the views of people who have spent their lives fighting terrorism, risking their lives, and entering countless operations and clashes, by saying 'they have no value.' The brutal retirement of more than four thousand colonels, who are the most valuable soldiers of the TAF and especially considered its memory, and dozens of generals who have served in the region for years in the last four or five years, has affected our fight against terrorism. The approaches of those who replaced the retired terrorism expert soldiers are disrespectfully and far from serious, as evidenced by the words of this admiral and the mysterious ministry official. Shame on them! No one is saying don't fight terrorism or don't conduct cross-border operations, it's just that deploying within 30-40 km of the border as part of the Claw Operations, at the request of political will - because cross-border operations are under the authority of the political will - is not considered correct. Many senior military officers currently serving in the TAF also think this way. Even the former Commander of the Land Forces, Musa Avsever, is known to have similar concerns."


What I was most curious about was the situation of the UAVs and Armed UAVs. Why couldn't these planes, which have changed the fate of many wars, be used? Looking at the statements of retired soldiers who are pro-ministry and pro-government, it seemed that they could not fly due to very bad weather conditions and visibility dropping to 5 meters. Optic images could not be obtained, thermal cameras could not detect targets, and therefore terrorists were not visible. What did former airman Üçok think about this?

"These are incomplete statements and related to perception management. The defense that our soldiers were martyred due to technological inadequacies caused by very bad weather conditions is not entirely correct. This is a defense mechanism developed by the Ministry of Defense. The altitude with the least air currents is 34-35 thousand feet. That's why passenger planes fly at this altitude. The Aksungur UAV could have flown very comfortably at 34-35 thousand feet if they had let it. (Maximum flight altitude 40,000 feet) If you are going to conduct operations across the border, you must monitor every place where your units are located from the air on a 24-hour basis. You will track all vehicle and human activity around and inform your ground units in case of any suspicious situation. Yes, in very bad weather conditions, optical and thermal cameras unfortunately cannot obtain images. But there is a solution for that too. To overcome this deficiency, radars that work with electromagnetic waves and can immediately detect targets on the ground because they are not affected by the worst weather conditions have been developed for UAVs and Armed UAVs."

Do we have this radar in Turkey? Üçok opens a website and reads:

"Yes, and it's produced by a Turkish company, METEKSAN Defense Industry, the MİLSAR radar that can detect even a 30 cm biscuit box on the ground with full resolution within its 27 km range even in the worst weather conditions. The radar works with electromagnetic waves that are not affected by weather conditions; therefore, it performs detection and tracking of potential enemy targets in low visibility conditions, moving slowly (human) or fast (vehicle). It has a Moving Ground Target Detection mode used for the detection and tracking of potential enemy targets and a Synthetic Aperture Radar mode available for high-resolution radar imaging, target classification, and terrain topography production in all weather conditions. Its SAR features support Stripmap and Spotlight sub-modes for high-resolution and long-range imaging in cloud-top surveillance operations during the day and night and in low visibility conditions. MİLSAR, with its SAR feature, produces high-resolution images independent of distance."


I asked what you are curious about. Are these radars being used by the TAF?

Üçok explains, but actually, everything is available in open sources:

"MİLSAR Radars have been used in Turkey for about two years, since August 18, 2021, by the Air Force, Naval Forces Commands, and MIT. It can be mounted on Bayraktar TB2, ANKA, and AKSUNGUR UAVs. Our UAVs and Armed UAVs with these radars are currently in operation. First, the MİLDAR SAR/GMTI Radar, developed by Meteksan Defense, was integrated into the ANKA UAV developed by TUSAŞ on August 18, 2021. The MİLSAR, which has a maximum range of 27 km, can be integrated into domestic UAVs (ANKA / Bayraktar TB2, etc.) without requiring structural modifications. According to a social media post by the President of Defense Industry Ismail Demir on June 20, 2022, following the ANKA UAV, the integration of the MİLSAR radar into the Aksungur UAV has also been completed."

So, according to the Ministry's previous official statement, the TAF inventory had radars for over two years that could transmit images with very good resolution from 27 km in the worst weather conditions and with a 360-degree angle. So I asked: 'Do we understand that during the Claw-Lock Operation, 12 soldiers were martyred without being seen by terrorists because UAVs and Armed UAVs equipped with MİLSAR radars were not used to obtain images from the operation area?'


Üçok gave a chilling response:

"Yes, we understand exactly that. It should be openly explained why ANKA and AKSUNGUR UAVs and UCAVs equipped with MİLSAR radars were not used in the Claw-Lock Operation without any concealment. The explanation that UAVs and UCAVs could not capture images due to bad weather conditions is not correct. The Ministry has UAVs and UCAVs capable of capturing radar images in bad weather conditions and can perform this task. Official statements are in this direction. Otherwise, in this case, either the Minister of National Defense Yaşar Güler is lying or the President of Defense Industries İsmail Demir is lying.”

The official information available in open sources further complicates the confusion following the death of 12 soldiers. The Ministry of Defense needs to inform the public clearly and unambiguously. Trying to silence, imposing bans on military lodges, on the contrary, only increases suspicions of neglect.

Bans, threats, suppressions... Maybe all this is to prevent things from coming to light!

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