Israel accused of spying on Turkish fighter-pilot communications
May 3, 2012 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Turkey have reportedly initiated a classified program to encrypt communications between Turkish fighter pilot trainees and their ground command centers, after it emerged that their conversations were being intercepted by Israeli intelligence. The allegations were aired earlier this week by Turkey’s Habertürk newspaper, which said that Israeli military intelligence had managed to “wiretap” (sic) for over a year radio exchanges between the Turkish pilots and their ground instructors. The Ankara-based newspaper claims that the Israelis had specifically targeted the 3rd Main Jet Base Group Command, in Konya, in Turkey’s Central Anatolia region. Konya, the birthplace of Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoğlu, hosts one of the country’s most active naval bases, where hundreds of pilots undergo initial training in flying F-16 fighter jets. Upon completing their training, they are required to undergo intensive combat readiness training, before entering the ranks of the Turkish Air Force (TSK) as full fighter pilots. According to Habertürk, the aim of the Israeli interceptors was to uncover “details about the TSK’s training programs and flight strategies”. The paper claims that the discovery of the Israeli communications interception program prompted Turkish engineers to begin developing software specifically designed to encode communications between fighter jets and ground command facilities. Regular observers of Middle Eastern affairs may remember that the two countries used to enjoy a very close military and intelligence relationship, which rested on over a dozen advanced bilateral cooperation agreements. But all this ended abruptly in the summer of 2010, when Israeli commandos attacked the MV Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship carrying international activists transporting supplies to the Gaza Strip. The attack, which took place in international waters, killed nine civilians, eight of whom were Turkish citizens. The ensuing diplomatic row, which resulted in the suspension of most economic, political, and military ties between Ankara and Tel Aviv, continues today, as Israel continues to reject Turkey’s calls to formally apologize for the bloody incident.