A $4 billion riddle

A $4 billion riddle

“T-Loramids”: Although it sounds like the name of a new antibiotic, this is the short name for Turkey’s $4 billion defense system, the Turkish Long-Range Air and Missile Defense Systems. A critical meeting will be held in July in Ankara to decide on the future of the project.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee, whose members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and procurement chief Murad Bayar, is expected to have the final word on the T-Loramids.

U.S. partners Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, EU consortium Eurosam, Russia’s Rosoboronexport and China’s CPMIEC have been waiting for this decision since 2009. The U.S. firms offer a Patriot-based system, Eurosam has the SAMP/T Aster 30, Rosoboronexport markets Russia’s S-300 and S-400 systems, and the Chinese have the HQ-9.

It is a good time to discuss the T-Loramids project. We have recently become familiar with the air defense missile concept, when Syria shot down a Turkish jet. After this incident, Erdoğan said the army’s rules of engagement had changed, and Syrian helicopters and planes violating Turkey’s airspace could be shot down, and Turkey started deploying some its air defense systems to the Syrian border.

I’ll look in detail at what those systems are, but at this point, it is safe to say that Turkey has a significant number of ground-to-air defense systems, although almost all of them date from old generations of this technology. They have been gradually renewed, but still, they do not have the firepower and command efficiency of the new-generation systems.

Turkey has roughly 2,000 anti-aircraft guns of various types at all ages, and 350 batteries of air defense missiles, again of various kinds. Most of these were manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s. The newest system we have is the Stinger system, which was manufactured in the 1980s.

Syria, on the other hand, has around 1,000 missile batteries, including 50 Pantsir S-1 batteries designed in the late 90s and bought by Syria in 2007, and 4,000 antiaircraft guns.

We are now considering the T-Loramids, a $4 billion project to strengthen our air defense capacity, but we must be careful. What we are expecting to deal with is Syrian helicopters and planes; however, what we intend to buy are systems actually designed for use against ballistic missiles. Our problem is with Syria, but who has the ballistic missiles targeted by the system we will buy? Iran.

We made a similar mistake in the past. Instead of investing in unmanned aerial vehicles, we bought AWACS early-warning and control planes from Boeing. We are paying $1.5 billion for four planes, and the delivery has yet to be completed. Our lack of UAVs hampers our efforts in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and we have requested these vehicles from other countries.

Turkey’s air defense capability
First of all, we have around 70 MIM-14 Nike-Hercules long-range air defense missiles, designed in the 1950s against Russia’s strategic bombardment planes. They are out of service in the U.S., and we are also putting them out of service.

Then there are 16 batteries of MIM-23 Hawk middle-range missiles. Hawk was also designed in the 1950s, but the XXI model Turkey has is modernized and has better radar. But the U.S. put the Hawk XXIs out of service in 2002.

Two systems are the backbone of our air defense system: British Rapier missiles with medium range and Stinger.

We have over 80 batteries of Rapiers. Roketsan also manufactures them with a license agreement. They have been deployed to protect military facilities and civilian targets with strategic importance.

The Stinger is a very affective short-range, low-altitude air defense weapon. Turkey’s stock of Stingers, which can be launched from the shoulder without radar, is estimated at around 850. The Turkish company Aselsan also produces the ATILGAN PMADS (Pedestal-Mounted Air Defense Missile System), a fully automated firing unit for Stingers. Eight Stinger rockets are integrated onto an armored tracked vehicle, and are fired by computer control. Turkey has more than 150 of these, and these are the ones being deployed to the Syrian border. Also, a four-missile platform is integrated onto Land Rovers, named ZIPKIN.

Of course, we also have antiaircraft vehicles. The Turkish military has around 700 of these double-barreled weapons in its inventory, manufactured by Oerlikon-Rheinmetall. Most of them use 20 mm cannons and have a range of two kilometers, while some use 35 mm cannons and have a range of four kilometers. They were first manufactured in the 1950s but have gradually been modernized.

Turkey also has 20 mm Rheinmetall Mk.20 Rh202, 40 mmk Bofors and M42 Duster antiaircraft cannons, but the last two might have a much higher value as collector’s items.

Ferhat Boratav is the editor-in-chief, CNNTurk news.