In 2007 it was reported in Haaretz that Israeli drones were being leased to Turkey for use against Kurds of the PKK in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan), using Israeli crews.
Haaretz reported separately that the Israeli supplier of Heron drones for use in Iraqi Kurdistan was also providing Israeli crews to operate them. It was reported that Heron drones were being used to target PKK rebels in northern Iraq in an offensive in December 2007. This was apparently due to the delay in IAI and Elbit providing Turkey with Heron drones as part of a contract made in 2005.
” “The delays have left the TuAF critically short of UAVs when intelligence input from those valuable reconnaissance assets are exceedingly required,” the Turkish military official was quoted as saying.
According to the Turkish newspaper, the presence of the Israeli crews is an interim solution that was offered following the delay in the delivery of the UAVs. ”
There is relatively little information easily accessible that describes the use of drones in Kurdistan by Turkey. This is hardly surprising due to the sensitive nature of the conflict where Turkey attacks forces in another country, and the alleged use of Israeli crews to operate these drones.
No doubt the reason Turkey wants its own drones is to make it independent of the US for intelligence about Kurdish rebels. In the actions against the Kurds in 2008 Turkey relied on intelligence from US sources, including drones over nothern Iraq, but this made them dependent on the US for information.
In 2008, Associated Press reported that a Turkish drone (a Heron leased from Israel) crashed in Kurdistan.
In January, 2010, an Iranian source reported that Turkey was about to take delivery of 4 Heron drones from Israel, and that Turkish ‘experts’ were in Israel testing them.
At about the same time, al Bawaba reported that Israeli Turkish relations were being mended and that 7 of 13 joint military projects were being complete. The newly delivered Israeli drones would be used to monitor Kurdish separatist hideouts in northern Iraq.
In February, 2010 Kurdmedia.com reported comments by Ahmed Deniz of the PKK that Turkey had demanded a drone from the US in return for increasing its role in Afghanistan. Kurdnet reported that Deniz said that this drone would be used against the PKK.