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By Bulent Aliriza and Samuel J. Brannen

08 Oct 13. The Turkish Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSIK), chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and including as its other members Minister of Defense Ismet Yilmaz and Chief of the Turkish General Staff General Necdet Ozel, announced on September 26 that Turkey will begin talks with the China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation (CPMIEC) on a long-range air and missile defense system (T-LORAMIDS) worth $3.44 billion, under Turkey’s specified budget of $4 billion. CPMIEC’s FD-2000 (an export variant of the HQ-9 based on the Russian S-300) has been in competition with U.S. partners Raytheon and Lockheed Martin’s Patriot PAC-3, Russian Rosoboronexport’s S-400, and the Italian-French Eurosam’s SAMP/T Aster 30. Turkey plans to acquire up to four missile firing units in addition to 288 surface-to-air missiles/interceptors under a co-production agreement. The Eurosam system came in second, the Patriot system third and Rosoboronexport was eliminated. Should the talks on an agreement with CPMIEC fail, Ankara intends to engage Eurosam. It is worth noting that in the 1990s Turkey worked with CPMIEC in the licensing and technology transfer to produce several short-range ballistic missile systems that it could not acquire from the United States and Europe.

Several newspaper accounts had appeared over the summer quoting unnamed Turkish Defense Ministry officials claiming that the Chinese system would be selected. Nevertheless, the choice still came as a surprise after many years during which a decision was delayed. Moreover, the T-LORAMIDS tender had been revised numerous times since it was first announced in 2007. Competitors were repeatedly pressed for the best price and maximum technology transfer and co-production value, an emphasis for Turkish defense acquisition since 1985, but more aggressively pursued by the current government.

Turkey currently operates the Cold War-era U.S.-origin Nike-Hercules (MIM-14) system for its long-range air defense. To augment Turkey’s air and missile capabilities in the lead up to the Iraq War of 2003, the Netherlands deployed under NATO command three Patriot batteries to Turkey. In November 2012, Turkey again requested that NATO contribute to its air defense as a show of alliance solidarity against Syrian aggression, and the United States, Germany and the Netherlands deployed under NATO command a total of six Patriot air and missile defense batteries to southeastern Turkey, which remain operational. Turkey is also defended under the NATO ballistic missile defense system for the protection of NATO European territory, populations and forces as agreed at the Lisbon Summit in 2010. In addition, since late 2011, Turkey has hosted an advanced U.S.-origin AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar in support of the NATO mission.

Q1: Why did Turkey select the Chinese company?

A1: On October 1, Turkish Defense Minister Yilmaz explained that the decision was made because “the Chinese gave us the best price.” He added “We had asked for co-production and a technology transfer. If other countries cannot guarantee us that, then we will turn to ones that can.” The following day, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu echoed his colleague by saying that the Chinese offer had met Turkey’s primary demands of price and co-production and commented “If only the American and European system makers offered better conditions, we could choose them.” The long-serving Under Secretary for Defense Industry Murad Bayar followed up with a press conference on the same day in which he said that the three reasons behind the choice were satisfaction of operational needs, the opportunity for over 50 percent local co-production of missile parts and the overall cost. Bayar also noted that the agreement could be signed in six months and that the system would be delivered in four years.

Speaking on Turkish television on Oct

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