Over at the Danger Room, Noah Shactman had an interesting post about U.S. efforts to prevent a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq. One report indicates that Congress is offering to sell Turkey four decommissioned guided missile frigates--worth an estimated $500 million--at the fire sale price of only $28 million. And, if Ankara wants to buy the attack helicopters designed for operating from the frigates, well, Congress (and the Bush Administration) will green light that one, too.
While the measure is obviously aimed at soothing relations with Turkey, the U.S. actually has a long history of "selling" military hardware to Ankara at steeply discounted prices. Twenty years ago, as the Air Force retired F-4s from its inventory, many of those jets wound up in Turkey. One of my friends, a former F-4 WSO, crewed one of the fighters on its delivery flight to the Turkish Air Force. As they signed the paperwork transferring the Phantom to its new owners, my friend happened to notice the "price" of the aircraft.
That's right, a "slightly used" F-4E, sold by the U.S. government to Turkey for only $50K. That has to be the biggest aviation bargain since the end of World War II, when the Army Air Corps sold operable P-51s to scrap dealers for $500 each.
Of course, some of those F-4s were later used for raids against--you guessed it--PKK terrorists operating in southern Turkey and northern Iraq. In fact, I had another intel colleague who had a rather interesting (and related) experience during a deployment to Turkey in the early 1990s.
Assigned to a tanker unit, his crew debriefings were fairly routine, even dull, until a boom operator volunteered that a flight of receiver aircraft--Turkish Air Force F-4s--were "loaded for bear" during their rendezvous with the American KC-135, carrying a full complement of "live" ordnance on their wing pylons. My colleague did some checking and discovered that, sure enough, that F-4s had attacked PKK targets in southeastern Turkey, not long after their refueling from that USAF tanker.
Needless to say, that "revelation" resulted in a rather spirited conversation between our ambassador in Ankara, and the Chief of the Turkish General Staff. In the sternest of diplomatic tones, he explained that the U.S. couldn't provide tanker support for Turkey's air campaign against the PKK, even if we sold them the jets used on those bombing runs.