Turkey, US continue negotiations on Patriot sale amid S-400 rift
Turkey and the United States continue negotiations for the former’s acquisition of Raytheon’s Patriot anti-ballistic missile systems, officials from the Turkish defense ministry have revealed, amid an ongoing bilateral tension over the Turkish deployment of S-400 air defense weaponry from Russia.
“Defense Industry Presidency is continuing talks with the U.S. for the procurement of the Patriot systems as an alternative project for the fulfillment of our needs as part of the Long Range Air and Missile Defense program,” senior officials from the Defense Ministry told the media at a briefing on July 25.
Turkey has long been criticizing the United States for ignoring its requests to buy Patriots in a bid to augment its aerial defense and stressing that it had to purchase a similar system from Russia after its previous attempts were denied by Washington.
The United States has replied to Turkey’s letter of request for Patriot acquisition in early January of this year, but its first offer did not satisfy the Turkish government. U.S. officials say they submitted a much better offer to Turkey in March and are still waiting for an official response.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has several times underlined that Turkey could still consider purchasing the $3.5 billion Patriot systems should the offer meet their criteria. The issue was raised at a meeting between Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump in their latest in-person meeting in Osaka in late June.
Shipment of first batch of S-400 parts completed
On the day Turkey reiterated its willingness to buy Patriot systems, Defense Ministry officials announced the completed transfer of the first batch of the S-400 parts. The delivery started on July 12 and all of the parts of the Russian systems have been collected at Mürted air base near Ankara.
Turkey’s deployment of the S-400s has triggered a retaliation by the United States, which has declared the cessation of the Turkish participation in the F-35 aircraft project as these two rival systems could not coexist on the land of a NATO nation.
F-35 training of Turkish pilots suspended
Defense Ministry officials confirmed the Turkish exclusion from the F-35 project along with a ban on further transfer of fighter jets Turkey has already paid for and the training of the Turkish pilots.
“In this context and as earlier stated by our defense minister, unilateral and unfair removal of Turkey –as an important partner of the F-35 project that fulfils all of its commitments- from the project and the work share has no legitimate base,” officials said.
Turkey’s exclusion from the F-35 project will also lead to a security problem in NATO’s south wing, the officials recalled.
“As strategic partners, it’s our natural right to expect that the U.S. avoids steps that would damage our relationship,” they said.
France to deploy SAMP/T systems
Turkish Defense Ministry officials have also informed about ongoing work with the Italian/French consortium, the Eurosam, for a potential co-production of SAMP/T anti-ballistic missile systems. The Eurosam and Turkey’s Aselsan and Roketsan companies have long been working on a concept definition study, which is expected to be accomplished in October 2019.
In the meantime, the officials announced the fact that France has offered the deployment of a SAMP/T air defense system contingent on Turkish soils as part of NATO’s efforts to upgrade the protection of the Turkish air space. A French military team held field studies in mid-June, officials informed.
Turkey currently hosts a Patriot contingent from Spain in İncirlik base and an Italian SAMP/T system in Kahramanmaraş, a southeastern Anatolian province.