Turkey buys Russian missiles thanks to the US

Turkey buys Russian missiles thanks to the US

A credit agreement between Turkey and Russia over the procurement of the S-400 air defense systems is coming into effect. Four batteries of the missiles, for $2.5 billion, are expected to be delivered to Turkey by 2020.

As a key member of the Western defense alliance NATO, Turkey knows that it will not be possible to integrate the S-400 system into the NATO air defense network, as they are not interoperable.

That means that if there is say a hypothetical attack from a neighboring country, like Syria which uses Russian weapons systems, the identifying-friend-and-foe (IFF) mechanism of the Russian defense missile may not recognize it as an enemy attack because their software rivals are NATO systems.

There is no report on a national software to be installed into the Russian missiles to meet such needs of Turkey, like with the case of the software developed for the Turkish-made F-16s in the early 1990s which recognized NATO member Greek jets as “foe.” There will be no planned technology transfer.

Then why is Turkey buying an expensive air defense system that is not interoperable with NATO and will not serve Turkey’s long-term needs?

First of all, Turkey has a parallel plan to procure a NATO-compatible air defense system. Talks are being carried out with the French and Italian governments for the joint production of the Aster-30 air defense systems - to be manufactured partly in Turkey - with a technology transfer. But it could take a bit longer than two years for the project to come to life.

Then why is Turkey not buying the NATO-compatible Patriot air defense systems from the U.S. as a temporary solution since American authorities are not allowing technology transfer or national software despite Turkey being their ally? Because the Turkish government knows by experience that the U.S. Congress is not likely to give permission for the sale of the sophisticated weapons system to Turkey at a time when they stopped selling ordinary handguns to Turkey because President Tayyip Erdoğan’s bodyguards forcibly dispersed a group of protesters in Washington DC in May 2017 using them.

The Congress did not give permission for the sale of only two armed drones to Turkey for its use in the fight against terror of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for years. As a result, Turkey started to produce its own drones privately. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-trained engineer, Selçuk Bayraktar, succeeded in it, and later on married Erdoğan’s daughter, Sümmeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar.

Turkey is currently building locally designed warships with locally produced steel alloys, which had previously been imported. The current political tension with Germany is causing problems for the production of a locally designed tank, since the technology for the tank will be purchased from Germany.

That is why Erdoğan quotes a Turkish proverb “A bad neighbor will make you a homeowner,” citing the U.S. as the “bad neighbor” in the arms procurement example. Recently, the government has tied the Defense Ministry’s Undersecretary for Defense Industry directly to the Presidency.

Erdoğan told reporters on Dec. 27 that it was necessary to centrally control Turkey’s defense producers with public shares, “because they have been infiltrated by the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ),” referring to the illegal network of the U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of masterminding the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey.

Institutions like ASELSAN, Turkey’s main military electronics producer, HAVELSAN, Turkey’s main military avionics producer, ROKETSAN the rocket producers and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), jointly producing F-16 war planes, CN-235 cargo planes, parts for Airbus passenger planes, etc. were all established following a U.S. arms embargo on Turkey from 1975-1978, during which Turkey had retaliated by closing its strategic Incirlik Air Base to U.S. flights.

Now, it seems Turkey is preparing another attempt for its national defense procurement program, thanks again to an unannounced restriction on U.S. arms sales to Turkey.

Turkey’s purchase of Russian missiles for air defense certainly upsets the U.S. government, similar to the doors that had closed on Turkey’s face for years due to political reasons, and perhaps to get on the nerves of the U.S.

Murat Yetkin, hdn, Opinion