The Pentagon has signed a deal to sell nearly $700 million worth of smart bombs to Turkey as tensions are escalating between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq.
The sale, announced on Tuesday, comes at a crucial time for Turkey’s military, which continues to be heavily embroiled in attacking the Kurds in the volatile northern part of Iraq.
“The deal came timely, as we are deeply engaged in asymmetrical warfare and need smart bombs,” a Turkish military official said.
The Pentagon granted the contract to Ellwood National Forge and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems for the sale of BLU-109 bunker busting bomb bodies and components, the first reported sale of such bombs to Turkey.
Ankara expects the transaction to be completed by 2020.
Based on reports, BLU-109 bombs have been in the Pentagon’s inventory since 1985 and are said to have been used on militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bomb contains 550 pounds of high explosive Tritonal, a combination of 80% TNT and 20% aluminum powder. The BLU-109’s tail fuse delays the bomb’s detonation until the bomb has penetrated the targeted bunker, ensuring complete destruction.
This is while Ankara has been engaged in a large-scale campaign against the Kurds in its southern border region in the past months. Activists argue that clashes have led to the death of civilians and inflicted major damage to the buildings and infrastructure in the southeastern region of the country.
Since late July 2015, Turkey’s southeastern regions have witnessed a spike in violence amid heavy confrontations between army forces and the PKK, an outlawed group that have been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since 1980s.
Ankara’s military has also been involved in an offensive against positions of the Kurdish group in neighboring Iraq.
The development came at a time that Syria was experiencing a shaky ceasefire backed by the US and Russia.