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DEFENSE UPDATE > Ankara’s move to Chinese air systems appals NATO allies

BURAK BEKDİL

Ankara leans toward selecting Chinese long-range anti-missile and air defense systems while NATO allies look shocked by the possibility of the decision

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The US Patriot air defense system, which is seen in the photo, is one of the systems competing for Turkey’s long-range anti-missile and air defense systems.

The US Patriot air defense system, which is seen in the photo, is one of the systems competing for Turkey’s long-range anti-missile and air defense systems.

Turkey’s western allies look puzzled by a looming decision by Ankara to select Chinese long-range anti-missile and air defense systems which they think cannot be integrated into the NATO-sponsored early warning architecture currently deployed on Turkish soil.

“That would certainly leave many of us speechless,” said one senior diplomat from a NATO country. “Turkey has every right to choose its own air defense system but we do not quite understand the logic of opting for a Chinese system with no interoperability with the existing [NATO] assets.”

A NATO ally defense attaché in Ankara said that deploying a Chinese air defense system to protect Turkish airspace could have political repercussions. “Questioning Turkey’s geopolitical trajectory would then be legitimate,” he said.

Turkey’s defense procurement officials are about to wrap up their assessment on four rival solutions in a multibillion dollar program to build advanced long-range anti-missile and air defense systems, strongly leaning toward the Chinese bid. One defense official said that the government had come to the conclusion that the Chinese proposal was technologically satisfactory, allowed sufficient levels of technology transfer and was much cheaper than rival solutions. He said that the decision to select the Chinese contender was awaiting final approvals from Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkey in January restructured the $4 billion program, dubbed T-LORAMIDS, which had originally been constructed as an off-the-shelf purchase.

The contenders’ off-the-shelf bids would remain valid, but the country’s procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), would ask bidders to submit parallel, co-production solutions. Erdoğan had given orders for the launch of feasibility studies on the “potential co-production” of the system.

The same month, SSM wrote to the bidders and asked them to send letters of intent for any co-production deal. The bidders are a U.S. partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot air defense system; Russia’s Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300; China’s CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp.), offering its HQ-9; and the Italian-French consortium Eurosam, maker of the SAMP/T Aster 30. T-LORAMIDS, has been designed to counter both enemy aircraft and missiles. Turkey presently has no long-range air-defense systems.

Integration problem worries


Western diplomats warn that Turkey may be deprived of the capability to integrate the Chinese-Turkish system into Turkey’s mostly NATO-owned early warning assets.

“I cannot comment on how the [U.S.] administration would react to that. But I can tell you that integrating a Chinese or Chinese-Turkish air defense system into NATO assets may not be a good idea,” a U.S. diplomat said.

Defense sources admit that U.S. officials had warned the “procurement bureaucracy” several times about the potential difficulties in achieving interoperability if Turkey decided to go for a Chinese or a Russian architecture.

“I see that the Turks remain defiant. But I do not think it would be practically possible to integrate neither the air defense nor the anti-missile components of the planned Turkish-Chinese architecture into NATO radars,” a London-based Turkey specialist said. “The Turks would have the same problem if they chose the Russian system, but I think for the Americans China represents a more direct threat.”

About half of Turkey’s network-based air defense picture (radars) have been paid for by NATO, according to a defense official. They are part of the NATO Air Defense Ground Environment. “Turkey can always decide to build a standalone system. But in that case, abstracting the air defense system from NATO assets would mean that Turkey will lose half of its radar capabilities,” said one defense analyst.

He said Turkey would need interface data to make its own air defense architecture interoperable with NATO assets, primarily data on the Identify Friend and Foe system. “This is top secret and cannot be installed into any Chinese system,” the analyst said.

Another major question, he said, is “how would Turkey have in its possession a made-in-China IFF system, and how would that system be integrated into its fleet of F-16 aircraft?”

“There is an important degree of incompatibility here and all in all any Chinese-Turkish co-production program would look problematic,” he said.

July/02/2013

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READER COMMENTS

Notice on comments

Bill Cobbett

9/26/2013 10:38:23 PM

What sort of NATO ally would buy a Chineese missile system...??? How on earth would it integrate in to NATO's defence shield...???

mr who

7/7/2013 2:04:17 PM

Hard call NATO is a massive work shop integrated with north America that is advancing at a rapport pace through their massive industrial base, millions of industrial groups evolving like a living organism .Now Chinese long range missiles is evolving at a rapport pace just look at their space program but remember that Turks have had thousands of wars with China who could you trust?

Marco Hsiao

7/4/2013 4:23:56 PM

[Making friendship with East Asia] There is no war between Turkey and China in history. China never threatens Turkey. Russia, Austria, France, the British Empire and the Persian Empire had threatened Turkey. Now the main potential enemy of Turkey is Russia; reinforcing cooperation between Turkey and China that is a simple and effective way for Turkey's defense. Poland is same, now Poland is quite safe, because a great power is rising beyond Russia's east border.

Brit in Turkey

7/3/2013 4:44:17 PM

Whenever I buy something in Turkey (eg a pump) I'm invariably told by the vendor that "You can have a cheap Chinese one or this one made in Turkey." And do not be surprised that I always go for the Turkish one as it looks so much better made. Turks have a very low opinion of Chinese products as do Brits. Aren't most high tech things from China (or Russia) copies of things western? Anyone here like to fly in a Chinese made airliner? Or a Russian one for that matter.

Brit in Turkey

7/3/2013 4:36:24 PM

mara: Britain will take over from America as "world protectors", but hang on a bit it'll have to borrow an aircraft carrier from France! Will one be enough? Keep up the good work America.

dogan kemal ileri

7/3/2013 4:22:53 AM

The Americans and Germans who have denied Turkiye access to high technology weapons and codes in the past are too arrogant and deserve to be sidelined. The Chinese would give willingly all the advanced technology start up Turkiye needs to be self reliant and deserve selection.There is no more Soviet threat so I do not see why we are still unpaid protectors of Europe and American interests and so we should leave NATO without wasting any more time and seek alliances with Russia,India and China.

mara mcglothin

7/3/2013 1:10:11 AM

KID If Turkey wants its own side, then so be it, BUT you can't have your cake and eat it too! When the evil Iranian's head across the border, don't come whining the USA to bail you out. Im not tormented in the least. Maybe China will come to Turkey's rescue?

ilker avni

7/3/2013 12:48:52 AM

Turkey in Nato are the odd one,while the cold war is over,Nato has no need for Turkey,Turkey should stand on its own and build its own defence systems,relying on others to defend yourself is madness and a sign of weakness.

Eric Martin

7/2/2013 10:41:34 PM

@Gen. Teoman. - EXACTLY. But not sure if they use the same radar. " Greece - S-300 PMU1 system acquired by Greece after the Cyprus Missile Crisis" Turkish engineers that say this will operate with the radar then should be trusted. Why do we need to use Nato radar to shoot down missiles in the first place? This system has it's own radar probably. The USA hates Chinese military and us buying their weapon and showing the world it succeeds would anger US defense contractors. Competition!

Gregory leeds

7/2/2013 9:13:14 PM

During "Operation Orchard" The air strike against the Joint Iranian/ North Korean nuclear facilityin Syria (confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA) to be used for for proliferation in 2011), the Israeli's Defence Forces allegedly used a "back door" to shut off Syrian air defences before the attack. Turkey may want to use caution in dealing with Chinese involvement with their defence. Turkey did fight against China in the Korean war. The Chinese, like Russia, do not like NATO.
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