Turkey in Talks with Eurosam for Air Defense Deal
Sep. 8, 2014 - 06:36PM | By BURAK EGE BEKDIL |
ANKARA — The Turkish president has announced that Ankara opened talks with Eurosam, maker of the Aster 30, to build an air defense system one day after a Defense News story reported that Turkey was distancing itself from a Chinese option.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Sunday that Turkey had opened talks on purchasing the French-Italian Eurosam to acquire its first long-range air- and anti-missile system after negotiations on a controversial deal with a US-blacklisted Chinese company hit a rock.
“Some disagreements have emerged with China on the issues of joint production and technology transfer during negotiations over the missile defense system,” Erdogan said.
“Talks are continuing despite that, but France, which is second on the list, has come up with a new offer. Right now we are holding ongoing talks with France,” he said. “Here, joint production is important to us.”
The Defense News story quoted a senior official from the prime minister’s office as saying that as technical negotiations with China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC) have been dragged into several problematic areas, “this option now looks much less attractive than it did last year.”
In September 2013, Turkey announced CPMIEC would construct the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system for US $3.44 billion.
The Chinese contender defeated a US partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot air defense system; Russia’s Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300; and Italian-French consortium Eurosam, maker of the Aster 30.
Turkish officials said if contract negotiations with CPMIEC fail, talks would be opened with the second-place finisher, Eurosam. Next in line would be the US bidder. The Russian option has been eliminated.
Turkey has extended the deadline for all three bidders five times, including on Aug. 26, when Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), said the deadline would be pushed from Aug. 31 to Dec. 31.
The Turkish government has come under increased pressure from its NATO allies to rethink the decision to work with CPMIEC in the missile defense program.
This year, Turkey’s Western allies have stepped up pressure, warning that if Turkey finalized the deal with the Chinese manufacturer, its entire defense cooperation with Western counterparts, including defense and non-defense companies, could be jeopardized.
The Turkish program consists of radar, launcher and interceptor missiles. It has been designed to counter enemy aircraft and missiles.
About half of Turkey’s network-based air defense picture has been paid for by NATO. The country is part of NATO’s Air Defense Ground Environment. Without NATO’s consent, it would be impossible for Turkey to make the planned Chinese system operable with these assets, some analysts say.
NATO and US officials have said any Chinese-built system could not be integrated with Turkey’s joint air defense assets with NATO and the United States. They also have warned that any Turkish company that acts as local sub-contractor in the program would face US sanctions because CPMIEC has been sanctioned under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.