In early January 2013, I predicted that:
Turkey will not be able to reach an agreement for the sale of long range air and missile defenses. US export control laws will continue to hinder progress on the sale of Patriot missile defense to Turkey. Turkey will continue to review the tender sporadically, but will fail to secure a satisfactory deal. Indigenous efforts to produce missile defenses, while unveiled with fanfare, will remain on the drawing board and not make much progress.
It appeared as if my prediction had come true when Prime Minister Erdogan announced in mid-January 2013 that Turkey had postponed its missile defense tender, in favor continuing talks with the four companies bidding for the contract. I have argued here and here that the repeated delays (the tender was announced in 2009) had to do with the U.S. consortium’s refusal to grant Turkey favorable terms for technology transfer .
[From a previous piece I wrote] – Turkey considered bids for the Patriot PAC (Patriot Advanced Capability)-3, Eurosam’s AMP/T Aster 30, Rosoboronexport’s S-300, and China Precision Machinery Export Import Corp.’s HQ9. The PAC-3 was rumored to be the top choice, but Raytheon and Lockheed Martin were unwilling to transfer design information to Turkey. Eurosam, on the other hand, was willing to transfer to Turkey critical design information. The Russian and Chinese missiles were cheaper, but NATO had made clear that if Turkey opted for either one, it would not be able to integrate them with the planned NATO missile shield.
Despite its long-standing interest in acquiring missile defense, Turkey opted not to award a winner for the contract. While never stated outright, Turkey appears to have wanted to purchase the Patriot, but was determined to have access to the design information. Raytheon and Lockheed refused, which prompted Turkey to kick the can down the road.
This decision sheds light on how the Turkish leadership views its current security status. Turkey has opted to turn to NATO for its defense from ballistic missile attack . . . [snip]. It also indicates that Ankara is committed to using foreign supplied technologies to jump-start its own domestic defense industry. These two approaches, indirectly, reveal that NATO remains the centerpiece of Turkey’s defense planning. However, Turkey’s growing assertiveness and desire to have a more flexible foreign policy is evident in the way it has pursued the missile defense tender.
Ankara, therefore, is likely to revive the tender in the near future, but will make the decision based upon its access to the technology, rather than a knee jerk reaction to the turmoil and unrest in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.
It appears that both of my predictions have come true. Ankara has not been willing to simply purchase the $4 billion system off the shelf and is instead working hard to ensure that Turkish companies have access to the design information. According to Lale Sariibrahimoglu and Nicholas de Larrinaga recent report:
Turkey has decided to abandon its plans to buy an off-the-shelf system for its T-Loramids surface-to-air missile (SAM) programme and is now seeking to co-develop a SAM system instead. Local and foreign defence industry sources have informed IHS Jane’s that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used his influence on the Executive Committee (EC) of the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) during its 3 January meeting to abandon the USD4 billion purchase of 12 SAM systems in favour of the development of an advanced SAM system between Turkey and one of the bidding companies.
Moving forward, I still believe that Eurosam’s AMP/T Aster 30 has the best chance of winning the tender because the consortium has indicated that it is willing to transfer the system’s technology to Turkey. The Russian and Chinese missile systems are not compatible with NATO radar and the proposed Alliance missile shield, which is likely to preclude them from being chosen. Finally, U.S. companies have traditionally balked at Turkey’s aggressive tech transfer demands. For example, U.S. firms lost the bid to upgrade Turkey’s F-4 aircraft and the M-60 tank because they were not as willing as the Israelis to share the technology with Turkey. Moreover, Ankara has a history of engaging European firms for the co-production of big-ticket military systems. Agusta-Westland beat out the U.S. based Sikorsky for Turkey’s attack helicopter tender because the European firm offered to co-produce the system and even allows for Turkey to export the helicopter. The U.S. company was not willing to offer such generous terms. While I do no expect the decision to happen any time soon, I do believe that the European company has the best shot at winning the new tender.
Stay tuned . . .