US willing to give Turkey ammunition for Idlib amid expected deployment of domestic air defense systems

“Turkey is a NATO ally. Much of the military uses American equipment. We will make sure that equipment is ready and usable,” says James Jeffrey

The United States is willing to provide ammunition alongside humanitarian assistance to Turkey in Syria’s Idlib region, the U.S. special representative for the region James Jeffrey said on Tuesday.

“Turkey is a NATO ally. Much of the military uses American equipment. We will make sure that equipment is ready and usable,” Jeffrey told reporters.

Separately the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, said at the briefing that Washington is examining Ankara’s request for air defense systems.

Turkey to deploy domestic air defense systems soon

In the same context, Turkey is expected to deploy domestically developed low and medium-altitude air defense systems in Syria, according to a statement by Defense Industries Presidency (SSB) head İsmail Demir on Tuesday.

Due to escalating clashes in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province bordering Turkey, the HİSAR-A low-altitude air defense missile system will be deployed on the ground in Syria in a week, while the HİSAR-O medium-altitude air defense systems will also be deployed soon, Demir said.

The defense systems were jointly developed by leading defense contractors ASELSAN and ROKETSAN, under the coordination of the SSB.

The systems will be on the battlefield as part of Operation Spring Shield, launched early Sunday in northwestern Syria’s Idlib. It targets Bashar Assad regime forces and Iranian-backed militia in a retaliatory move against the brutal regime attack that killed 34 Turkish soldiers and injured dozens of others in the de-escalation zone on Feb. 27.

Currently, the Korkut low-altitude air defense system is active on the ground, Demir told broadcaster CNN Türk, adding that the deployment of the HİSAR family of systems will add a new level to Turkey’s air defense capabilities.

Korkut was also domestically developed by ASELSAN and has the capability of firing 1,100 rounds per minute, and it can destroy rockets some 4 kilometers away before they hit the ground in cases where they are not detected by military drones.

HİSAR missiles were developed to protect military bases, ports, facilities and troops against air-based threats as well as to meet the needs of the Turkish army for a low and medium-altitude air defense system.

Hisar-A completed the test phase in March 2019, when it neutralized a target plane with pinpoint accuracy in vertical shooting. A 100% success was achieved in the test shooting of the missile, in guiding it with radar information, target detection, tracking and achievement of the target with the searcher cap. With the change of engagement subsequently, the missile was directed to the second target in the air, and the same level of success was achieved.

Hisar’s radar, command and control, and fire control systems were all developed by ASELSAN, while ROKETSAN was responsible for the development of the missile system.

Turkey recorded a noteworthy success recently in Idlib with its aerial operations conducted with packs of domestically developed armed and unarmed aerial vehicles (UAVs) and homegrown precision-guided munitions.

Coordinated retaliatory strikes by swarms of armed locally made drones, namely the Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) ANKA-S, and the Bayraktar TB2 developed by the Baykar Makina, ended up causing significant damage to Assad regime elements, hitting everything from tanks and air missile defense systems to howitzers, as well as military bases and chemical warfare depots.

Electronic warfare systems assist UAVs

Turkey’s domestically developed electronic warfare systems, such as the Koral Electronic Support (ES) and Electronic Attack (EA) System, are also active on the ground, steadily assisting the drone operations.

Most recently, a video clip from among a large amount of video footage that went viral on social media showed a domestically developed ANKA-S armed drone striking an apparently active Russian-made Pantsir S-1 air defense system deployed inside Idlib.

The clip shows a Pantsir S-1 mounted on its eight-wheel-drive truck sitting placidly as the MAM-L smart ammunition projectile, developed by ROKETSAN and fired from ANKA, barrels toward it. The apparently active system failed to detect the incoming missile, possibly because of the signal jamming going on in the area, among other reasons.

The Koral was developed under the scope of an agreement inked between Aselsan and the SSB in July 2009 for the domestic production of ground-based ES and EA systems.

The Koral system can be installed on military vehicles and is operational on a large frequency band. The system consists of one electronic support vehicle and four electronic EA vehicles.

As of Monday morning, Turkey neutralized a total of 2,557 regime forces, also destroying 135 tanks, more than 40 armored vehicles, 45 cannons, 44 multiple rocket launchers, 12 anti-tanks, 29 anti-aircraft weapons, one drone, eight helicopters, nine ammunition depots and seven ammunition ramps.

Turkish Air Forces have also downed two Russian-built fighter jets over Idlib with missiles fired from F-16 fighter jets in Turkish airspace with the possible coordinated assistance from the drones. Another Assad regime warplane was downed near Maarat al-Numan on Tuesday.

Turkey’s air defense concerns cover the area in Idlib, where Turkish observation posts are located, which can be ensured with medium-altitude air defense systems; though the supply of a high-altitude air defense system like the U.S.’ Patriots has also been on the agenda recently.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said he was in talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over supplying Turkey with Patriot missiles after Ankara was reported to have requested the missiles amid heightened military tensions in Idlib.

The martyred Turkish soldiers were working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia, which prohibits acts of aggression in Idlib.

But more than 1,300 civilians have since been killed in attacks by the Assad regime, backed by heavy Russian airstrikes in the zone, as the cease-fire continues to be violated, sending about a million refugees toward Turkey’s border with Syria.

Operation Spring Shield marks the fourth Turkish military operation in northern Syria.

Turkey on Oct. 9, 2019, launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG terrorists from the area east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Besides the Operation Peace Spring, Turkey carried out two cross-border operations west of the Euphrates river, Operation Euphrates Shield in August 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in January 2018, to drive away terrorists, including the YPG/PKK and Daesh, from its borders.

Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces entered Afrin town center and liberated it from terrorists on March 18, 2018.

Turkish jet downs Assad regime warplane in NW Syria

“Turkish F-16 jet downed an Assad regime warplane in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province near Maarat al-Numan,” the Turkish National Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry noted in a statement that an L-39 type warplane belonging to the Syrian regime was downed by the Turkish forces.

The Turkish military has carried out the operation throughout the night and has destroyed a warplane, one drone, six tanks, five howitzers, two air defense systems, three armored combat vehicles, five technicals, six military vehicles, an ammunition dump and neutralized 327 regime soldiers, the ministry said.

Turkey on Sunday launched Operation Spring Shield after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were killed and dozens injured in an Assad regime airstrike in Idlib, a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, just across Turkey’s southern border. Turkey’s only target during the operation were Assad regime troops and equipment in Idlib under the nation’s right to self-defense, stressed Akar.