Without much fanfare at all the U.S. recently delivered the first of four AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control) aircraft to Turkey. These were ordered in 2003 and were supposed to be delivered by 2008. But there were delays as Turkey asked for changes and had problems getting delivery of components from Turkish and Israeli suppliers. A year ago Israel agreed to deliver (after a three year delay) $25 million of electronics needed to complete four Turkish AWACS aircraft. The delay was caused by increasing hostility between the Islamic politicians in Turkey and Israel. This led to a sharp decline in Israeli military equipment sales to Turkey.
Back in 2003 Turkey signed a $1.6 billion contract with Boeing for the design, development, and construction of four AWACS type aircraft using twin engine B-737 jet transports. These 737 transports were modified by Boeing for use as AWACS. The cruise speed for the 737 is 910 kilometers an hour, and the AWACS version has a crew of 8-12 pilots and equipment operators, who use the search radar and various other sensors. The 78 ton 737 AWACS can stay in the air for more than ten hours per sortie.
The 737 AWACs has a radar that can spot aerial targets up to 600 kilometers away and ships below over 240 kilometers away. For both aircraft and ships effective range depends on the size of the target. The air traffic control on the aircraft can handle nearly 200 aircraft at one time. The aircraft can also detect other radars at ranges of up to 800 kilometers.
The main cause of the Israeli delay in delivering the AWACS gear was a 2010 incident where Islamic terrorists, including several Turks, fought with Israeli commandoes on a Turkish ship trying to reach Gaza. An Islamic charity, IHH, organized the six ship flotilla meant to break the blockade. IHH had frequently been identified, over the last two decades, as a supporter of terrorist operations. Messages broadcast by IHH terrorists on the ships before the May 30th incident, indicated that the objective was to trigger a lethal battle with the Israelis and claim an unprovoked Israeli attack on peaceful demonstrators. Turkey’s Islamic government backed itself into a corner by demanding Israel apologize for defending itself when halting the 2010 blockade-breaking ships. The Turks also demand compensation and an end to the Gaza blockade. This was despite the fact that the Turkish activists on the ships were videoed attacking the Israeli boarding party. The Turks would not back down and threatened to send warships to escort yet another group of blockade breakers. Now, with the Syrian civil war going into its third years, the Israelis made a friendly gesture and the Turks backed down. The Israeli manufacturer of the electronics also wanted to complete the sale. Business, after all, is business. With that obstacle out of the way and most of the Turkish suppliers caught up, the first AWACS could be delivered.