Missile deal not linked to F-35, says commander
DUBAI - Reuters
Workers can be seen on the assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin’s factory in Texas. Turkish General Akın Öztürk said Turkey was poised to decide in December or January whether to proceed with an initial purchase of two F-35 fighter jets, but the exact date had yet to be set. REUTERS photo
The head of the Turkish air force said on Nov. 16 that he did not see any linkage between Turkey’s interest in buying F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and the missile defense procurement process.
General Akın Öztürk told Reuters that Turkey was poised to decide in December or January whether to proceed with an initial purchase of two F-35 fighter jets, but the exact date had yet to be set.
“I am very interested in the F-35,” Öztürk said after his speech at the Dubai International Air Chiefs. “We have enough money.”
Turkey helped fund the development of the F-35 and hopes its participation results in component orders for Turkish firms.
He also noted that Turkey’s decision to buy a $3.4 billion missile defense system from a Chinese company was not final, and could still change.
Missile deal not finalized
Asked at a global gathering of air chiefs about U.S. concerns that the Chinese system would not be interoperable with those of NATO members, he said, “This is not the last position of Turkey. It may change.”
Öztürk told he was not authorized to speak more broadly about Turkey’s announcement in September that it planned to buy a missile defense system from a Chinese firm facing under U.S. sanctions.
Turkey announced in September it had chosen China’s FD-2000 long-range air and missile defense system against rival offers from Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and Raytheon.
It said China offered the most competitive terms and would allow co-production in Turkey, but the decision caused alarm in NATO countries worried about China’s growing clout.
Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. government officials raised concerns after Ankara’s choice of the missile defense system built by China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, a firm that is under U.S. sanctions for violating the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.
U.S. arms makers Raytheon Co (RTN.N) and Lockheed are considering ways to sweeten their offer to build a Patriot missile defense system for Turkey, two sources familiar with the issue told Reuters earlier this week.
Both sources said no decisions had been made and it was important to allow Turkey - a member of NATO - time to make up its mind.
The companies are also reviewing the offset agreements and co-production deals involved in the U.S. bid, the sources said.
Turkey was seeking some space launch capabilities, but it was unclear if U.S. officials would approve the export of such sensitive technologies as part of an offset package accompanying the missile defense deal, said one of the sources.
The sources said the U.S. proposal was more comprehensive and offered Turkey greater capabilities than the Chinese system as well as ongoing maintenance and technical support for the Patriot system.