Confusion over Turkey’s Chinese missile choice
Will the Turkish government retreat from its position to choose Chinese system for its long range air and missile defense program upon reaction from its Western allies?
The reaction from the US and NATO which Turkey is a member of, focused on lack of interoperability of Chinese systems with NATO standard defense systems.
The first remark after those reactions came from President Abdullah Gül, who said that the decision of the Defense Industry Executive Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan was not the final one.
It was asked to General Necdet Özel, the chief of Turkish general staff, also a member of the Committee why Turkey did not choose Patriot system of American Raytheon,or Aster-30 of the French-Italian Eurosam (and not even Russian s-300) but FD-2000 of Chinese state run CPMIEC, which is blacklisted bythe US because of its weapons trade with NothKorea, Iran andSyria. Özel told reporters to go andask the question to political decision makers; that is the government.
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz told Vatan newspaper on October 2 that the choice was due to joint production,technology transfer promises and cheaper price.
Today you read Burak Bekdil’s story on the headline of Hürriyet Daily News that, Murad Bayar, the Undersecretary for Defense Industry, also in the four-member Comitteee gives some important details about the missile tender. First of all, the Chinese proposed $3,4 bln for the half-half joint production of the system. Secondly, Russians were out of the tender at the beginning and European, not American system came the second. Third, yes the decision wasnot the final one and if the talks over the agreement would fail, Turket would sit for another round with the French-Italian consortium.
The fourth and perhaps the most interesting part of Bayar statements is that it was Turkey’s condition from all companies that the system should be interoperable with the NATO. Acknowledgingthe NATO concernsover protecting the confidential software is the rpoblem before technical compatibility, Bayar says that the interoperation adjustments will be made by a Turkish company, not a Chiese one with necessary guarantees over secrecy, addind that US and NATO officials should have faith in Turkey’s sensitivity over joint defense.
There are some other aspects of the Turkish decission for the Chinese. American companies which are subject to Congress authorisation are not willing to give permission for operationg national software in their systems. Turkey’s choice for the Italian attack helicopter was mainly because of American reluctance for national software. There are also long delays over certain defense systemws soıurcing from mainly politicalconsiderations, like the one over AWACS planes which pushes Turkey to look for other options. For example,Turkey managed to develop a number of short to medium range artillery rockects with Chinese and Ukrainian technology acquired in the last two decades. Remember that Turkey has sent its first native design observation satellite earlier this year from China,with Chinese technological support.
Coming backto the orgininal question? Will Turkey reconsider its decision to go for the Chienese for its air defense system. Probably, yes. Probably the US and European companies could come with new proposals in order to finalize the tender and also to stop the Chinese from their first entry to the international marketinb this field, too. But the conditions and stakes are high; joint production, technology transfer, national software and the price. But it is also possible that Chinese would do everything possible in order not to miss this opportunity and Turkey’s choice willnot chance despite its political and consequencial outcomes.