No air defense victor for system in Turkey

No air defense victor for system in Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
No air defense victor for system in Turkey

US Patriot is among candidates for Turkey’s $4 billion air defense system. AA Photo

Turkey’s highest decision-making body for defense procurement failed to select from among U.S., Russian, and Chinese bidders on key defense programs yesterday.

The Defense Industry Executive Council held its triennial or quarterly meeting during the week with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Murad Bayar, chief of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries as members of the panel. Yılmaz later released a statement that talks would continue with four key foreign suppliers on Turkey’s Long Range Air and Missile Defense Systems, worth up to $4 billion.

Competitors in the tender include U.S. partners Raytheon and Lockheed Martin with their Patriot-based system, Eurosam with its SAMP/T Aster 30, Russia’s Rosoboronexport S-300 systems and China’s CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation) offering its HQ-9. Eurosam’s shareholders include France’s Thales and MBDA, which is jointly owned by British BAE Systems, Italian Finmeccanica and pan-European EADS. These companies will work with Turkish partners.

Presently Turkey has no long-range air-defense systems, which are in theory capable of hitting an incoming aircraft or missile.

Bid follows downing of Turkish fighter jet

The bid competition comes less than a month after a Turkish RF-4E reconnaissance fighter was shot down by Syrian forces. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the plane was hit by a barrage of short-range anti-aircraft machine gunfire, but some analysts have suggested the aircraft might have been hit by a Russian missile defense system, although this has not been confirmed. Erdoğan is scheduled to visit Russia tomorrow for a one-day visit.

The June 22 downing of a Turkish jet, a two-seater F-4 Phantom, has worsened the already tense relationship between Turkey and Syria. The formerly close neighbors had already been involved in disagreements over the Syrian government’s harsh repression of a mostly Sunni uprising, now more than 16 months old.

Many Western officials and experts say the Russian and the Chinese defense systems in the Turkish bid competition are not compatible with NATO systems.

Despite this criticism, Turkey has ruled against expelling the Chinese and Russian options from the bid, saying there is no need to exclude them from the Turkish competition.

No decision appeared to be made on which program would be used to select a national commercial shipyard which will manufacture the remaining five of the eight Milgem national corvettes involved in the $1.5 billion program.

Candidates are RMK Marine, owned by Koç Holding and Dearsan. The first two corvettes were built at a military shipyard. The first, the TCG Heybeliada, is already in service in the Navy, and the second, the TCG Büyükada, has been put to sea for tests.

The panel decided Undersecretariat of Defense Industries to begin study on a second runway at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport.