A coalition of public policy, foreign affairs, ethnic, and faith-based groups have called on the Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) to hold a national security briefing prior to granting approval to planned SpaceX launches of Turkish satellites that meaningfully extend the ability of Ankara’s killer drones to target American forces, allies, and interests across Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East.
In a letter dated February 1st, Diliman Abdulkader of American Friends of Kurdistan, Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee of America, Endy Zemenides of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, Richard Pierre Shabo Ghazal of In Defense of Christians, and Cliff Smith of Middle East Forum asked Administrator Steve Dickson for an in-person or online consultation regarding the FAA’s statutory authority, under 51 USC Ch. 509: Commercial Space Launch Activities, to approve or reject proposed 2023 SpaceX launches of Turkey’s Turksat 6A and 6B satellites.
“The FAA should immediately suspend any and all Turksat launches, and then open up a transparent civil society dialogue about the reckless implications of the U.S. unilaterally expanding the range and lethality of a Turkish drone fleet that has increasingly been deployed to undermine U.S. interests and allies around the world,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
The FAA, in a largely dismissive December 17, 2021 letter to this coalition, reported that – having consulted with the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Commerce, NASA, NOAA, Federal Communications Commission, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Coast Guard – the FAA “had no basis by which to grant your request to deny approval for the mission.”
Cliff Smith, Washington Project Director of the Middle East Forum, remains concerned. “In recent years, Turkey has frequently misused technology coming from the US in ways that hurt US interests, and in ways that are not in accordance with US values. That should not go unnoticed by policymakers across the board when dealing with technology-related issues.”
The full text of the coalition letter is provided below.
Dear Administrator Dickson:
We are writing to follow up on our recent exchange of correspondence with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to request a briefing regarding the FAA statutory authority, under 51 USC Ch. 509: Commercial Space Launch Activities, to approve or reject a proposed 2023 SpaceX launches of Turkey’s Turksat 6A and 6B satellites. We are, in particular, interested in a comprehensive discussion about our concerns regarding the U.S. national security and foreign policy implications of a payload, that will – by all accounts – considerably expand the attack radius of Turkey’s attack drones and other offensive military capabilities.
As you know, CAATSA (P.L.115-44) sanctions have been enforced against senior Turkish officials and government entities, including Turkey’s defense procurement agency, commonly referred to by its Turkish acronym SSB. This agency sets high-level Turkish defense industry policy across a broad array of domains, including satellite and other forms of communication. Sanctions levied against SSB prohibit export licenses, loans, credits, and other forms of export or financial assistance, as well as full blocking sanctions and visa restrictions against senior SSB officials.
Turksat satellites – produced by state-owned Turksat – have well-documented military applications. The SSB, in its own product catalog, confirms the military use of the Turksat series. Among these applications are drone warfare and other forms of unmanned remote weaponry. Turksats substantially expands the offensive reach of the Turkish military, locking in Ankara’s ability to independently conduct military operations against U.S. and allied positions.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. We are looking forward to the opportunity to meet with you and your senior leadership in person or online, to discuss this matter.
American Friends of Kurdistan
Armenian National Committee of America
Hellenic American Leadership Council
Richard Pierre Shabo Ghazal
In Defense of Christians
Middle East Forum