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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chinese warplanes refueled in Iran en route to Turkey

This file photo shows Chinese ground crew members equipping a warplane before a military drill. AP photo

Iran indirectly supported a secret military drill between the Turkish and Chinese air forces that took place in September, sparking concerns in the United States, daily Hürriyet reported Monday.
The Turkish and Chinese air forces secretly participated in “Anatolian Eagle” war games in Konya, which two years ago involved Turkey’s fellow NATO members the United States, Israel and Italy.

Four drill-bound Chinese SU-27 warplanes that took off from bases in China refueled in Iran – the first time the Islamic Republic has ever allowed foreign warplanes to refuel at its airbases, the report said.
The Russian-made SU-27s used by the Chinese air force had to refuel in both Pakistan and Iran because of their limited 3,500-kilometer range.

Official letters were sent to the two countries prior to the military drill requesting the use of airspace and passage and refueling privileges. The warplanes refueled a second time in Iran on their return to China.
The drill was conducted after two years of deliberations, the report said, adding that its sole purpose was to improve mutual cooperation between the two friendly countries. 

Ankara excluded Tel Aviv from the 2009 war games, reportedly because of the political tensions that followed Israel’s invasion of Gaza in January 2009. The move prompted fellow NATO members the United States and Italy to withdraw from the drills and Turkey held them at the national level. The Turkish government then decided to freeze all military exercises with Israel in response to the killing of eight Turkish citizens and an American of Turkish descent by Israeli commandos aboard a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.

Memorandum from Washington received ahead of drill

Washington contacted Ankara ahead of the drill to express concerns over the planned use of F-16 warplanes in a military drill involving China – which the U.S. considers a possible threat.

"We expect you to honor the agreement article that requires the exercise of caution regarding the transfer of technology to third countries," the memorandum read.

American concerns were taken into consideration and F-16 fighters were replaced by older F-4 models in the exercises.

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