Turkey to return Israeli-made drones, citing technical problems

Israeli Aerospace Industries says it stood by its obligations and doesn’t know where the problem lies

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

File: Illustrative photo of a drone (IDF Spokesperson)
File: Illustrative photo of a drone (IDF Spokesperson)

Ankara is returning three unmanned aerial vehicles purchased from Israel and demanding damages, claiming Israel didn’t uphold the terms of an agreement, Turkish media reported on Saturday.

Turkey decided to send the three Heron drones back after technical problems were found with the aircraft, Turkish news outlet NTV reported. Turkey acquired the drones four years ago as part of a 10 drone, $183 million deal with Israel Aerospace Industries.

According to Israel Radio, Ankara claimed the Israeli government has rejected repeated requests to repair the aircraft, as specified in their agreement. As a result, Turkey has decided to return them to Israel and demand compensation for damages incurred because of Israel’s unwillingness to meet its obligations.

One of the planes crashed while operating on a mission in southeastern Turkey and two others haven’t been used in eight months due to technical issues, Turkey claimed, according to the NTV report.

IAI responded to the report saying that it had stood by all its obligations regarding repair of the aircraft, and that it did not know what the problem was.

Last year, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported that Turkey returned several Heron drones for repair because of “engine-related” and “other problems.” After delays in getting them back to Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly complained. Israel then returned the drones and sent technicians to fix them.

It was not clear whether the Herons being returned to Israel were the same ones that required repair in 2011.

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