In 2015, Turkey refused E-3D and E-3F AWACS surveillance aircraft from NATO allies the United Kingdom and France to overfly its airspace, Nordic Monitor reported, citing confidential memos it had obtained.
The documents in question were issued by the Plans and Principles Directorate of the Turkish General Staff in December 2015.
According to them, the UK submitted an overflight request for its military surveillance E-3D aircraft to the Turkish General Staff in 2015, and, in parallel, another overflight permit was sought by the French Embassy in Ankara for its E-3F aircraft to conduct an observation flight over Turkish territory.
Turkish military authorities rejected both of the requests, to the Electronic Support Measures (Elektronik Destek Tedbirleri, EDT) of the aircraft.
The document also claimed that E-3D/F AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft were programmed to collect data threatening Turkey’s national interests.
The Turkish General Staff informed the French defense attaché on March 2, 2015 and the UK military attaché on March 10, 2015 of its decision on overflight permit requests.
Each attaché was asked to approve demands made by the Turkish side by signing a separate Letter of Understanding (LoU) in exchange for Turkey’s permission for the E-3D/F AWACS aircraft to overfly its airspace.
The Turkish military wanted to deploy a pilot/radar prevention controller and electronic intelligence operators in the E-3D/F AWACS during their flight over Turkish airspace.
Ankara also requested to be provided a copy of the surveillance data gathered in Turkish airspace. Finally, it also requested to carry out observation flights over UK and French territory.
But France and the UK rejected Turkey’s demands and withdrew their request for an overflight permit.
Turkey, France and the UK are parties to the Treaty on Open Skies. The treaty, which has 34 party states, establishes the regime for the conduct of short-notice, unarmed aerial surveillance by party states in an area stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
The treaty gives each state the right to conduct and the obligation to accept observation flights over their territory.
According to the documents, Turkey also opposed French and Greek arguments on the implementation of national regulations during NATO exercises. France and Greece claimed that national regulations shall be implemented in the event of a conflict stemming from inconsistency between the NATO Air and Missile Defense System Plan (SUPLAN 24600D) and national laws, and France insisted that national laws regulating its airspace should have been applied to similar cases during the NATO Ramstein Aspect 14 military exercise held in September 2014.
Turkey’s strategy to limit “the participation of non-NATO countries in the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) activities as observer states in accordance with the NATO 2012 Chicago Summit decisions and Military Committee Memoranda (MCM)-0086-2011 document” was further revealed.
However, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands objected to Turkey’s arguments and underlined that (MCM)-0086-2011 regulates missile firing operations by non-NATO states and that these countries are allowed to attend NAMFI activities as observers without NATO Military Committee (MC) approval.
This entire situation shows how little faith Turkey has in its NATO allies, and that it doesn’t trust them with its national security. It furthermore stands as evidence that the purchase of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia wasn’t an “isolated incident,” but rather a symptom of Ankara distancing itself in its policy and conduct from its NATO allies over several years.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Exceeded expectations: the Turks tested the S-400
- Russia and Turkey May Agree on Delivery of Additional S-400 in 2020