Turkey, as readers of the blog are well aware, has tried to purchase missile defenses since 1997. Turkey’s initial provider of choice was Israel, but financial issues stemming from Turkey’s 2001 fiscal crisis prevented the sale. Turkey, as I have noted here, is keen on expanding its domestic arms industry. The government, therefore, ensures that its major military projects involve co-production of certain components by Turkish manufacturers. The government views co-production and the transfer of military tech as critical for the further development of Turkey’s domestic arms industry. Demands for tech transfer – in my opinion – is probably the most important reason for the lack of progress on Turkey’s latest missile defense tender.
Turkey is currently considering bids for long range air and missile defenses from the United States’ Raytheon for the Patriot PAC-3, Russia’s Rosoboronexport for the S-300, China’s Precision Machinery Export Import Corp (CPMIEC) for the HQ9 FD-2000, and the Italian-French Eurosam for the SAMP/T Aster 30. It is widely believed that Turkey would prefer Patriot or the SAMP/T, but Ankara has thus far refused to rule out the Russian bid. Turkey, however, has had problems with Russian military sales in the past.
For example, Turkey’s purchase of the Russian made BTR infantry fighting vehicles and M-17 helicopters ended badly. Russia failed to provide spare parts and maintenance contracts for these two products, which eventually rendered them useless. Despite these problems, Russia did beat out the Israelis for the supply of anti-tank missiles in 2008. The deal included tech transfer, which has become a staple of all of Turkey’s military tenders.
Despite the anti-tank missile deal, Turkey has a history of using Russian companies to gain more favorable terms from Western suppliers. For example, Turkey is suspected of using an Israeli-Russian aerospace consoritum to secure better benefits for a mid-1990s attack helicopter tender. Turkey did eventually choose the U.S. supplier, but then cancelled the contract after the U.S. firm refused to transfer technology. Turkey then chose to partner with Augusta-Westland, which had very favorable co-production terms and was willing to transfer technology. (Specifically, South Korea has selected the co-produced helicopter as a finalist for its attack helicopter tender)
Thus, it is entirely possible that Turkey is keeping Rosoboronexport in the running to try and secure more favorable terms from Raytheon. However, as was the case with the anti-tank missile export, Turkey could choose the Russian model if Rosoboronexport offers to transfer the missile’s technology. I would imagine that Turkey is eager to have access to the fire control information, the radar information, the system’s software, the guidance, and the rocket engine design. All would be beneficial for Turkey’s military development programs.
Lastly, Turkey’s history does not bode well for Raytheon. It is highly unlikely (if not impossible) that Raytheon will ever agree to Turkey’s terms, thus I do not think it is likely that the U.S. firm will be selected. Thus, I would say that the front runner is the Italian-French Eurosam for the SAMP/T Aster 30 because the consortium has agreed to provide some tech transfer and the missile can be integrated into NATO’s missile defense system.
Stay tuned . . . though if I were in Cyprus or Las Vegas, I’d bet money on the tender decision being delayed.