US missile agency praises US firms’ rival in Turkish race

US missile agency praises US firms’ rival in Turkish race

Burak Bekdil
US missile agency praises US firms’ rival in Turkish race The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has awarded its “Technology Pioneer Award” to a European system currently competing with a U.S. partnership in a multibillion-dollar competition for a Turkish contract. 

The award went to the SAMP/T system, developed by the French-Italian Eurosam, the contender in the Turkish program designed to build the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system. 

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said the award came in recognition of the successful firing on March 6, 2013 of an Aster 30 Block 1 missile against a target representing a SCUD-type tactical ballistic missile, in liaison with the NATO command chain.

The firing of SAMP/T aimed to demonstrate its defensive capability and interoperability with NATO through the use of Link 16. The system has proven that it can be integrated into joint forces and inter-allied operations.

In Turkey, the European winner of the U.S. award is the rival of the U.S. partnership of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, maker of the Patriot system. 

One senior defense procurement official said he was “puzzled” with the U.S. acknowledgement. “The U.S. agency is a prestigious body. We cannot ignore the award. But there will be plenty of other parameters in the competition,” he said. 

One western aerospace industry official said the award would inevitably boost SAMP/T’s profile in the Turkish competition. 

“This is a prestigious acknowledgement … that seals the [European] system’s interoperability with NATO assets and its capability for integration into allied operations. No doubt, a profile booster…” said the official. 

But Turkish defense industry sources agree that a decision on the Turkish contract is not imminent due to political uncertainties. 

After Ankara selected a Chinese company in September 2013 to build the air defense architecture, it came under heavy pressure from its Western allies to reconsider the decision. Last year, Ankara opened parallel negotiations with Eurosam. 

In 2013, Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee selected China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp (CPMIEC) as the best bidder and Eurosam as the second. The U.S. partnership came third in the bidding. CPMIEC offered a solution with a price tag of $3.44 billion.

*Rick Lehner from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said, “The award presented [to MBDA] was from the International Program Committee at the Multinational Conference, not from the [U.S.] Missile Defense Agency.”

This article was based on information from a press release sent by the MBDA.

“On Oct. 6, 2015, during its yearly Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency bestowed the ‘Technology Pioneer Award’ on the French and Italian teams behind the SAMP/T extended air defence system,” the press release said.