T-LORAMIDS decision points to Turkey’s strengthening bonds within NATO
After a protracted bidding battle to supply Turkey with T-LORAMIDS (Turkish Long Range Air And Missile Defense System – “Turkish long-range air defense missile system”), the Turkish leadership made a decision to launch its own project to build the system. This information became public on November 15, 2015. In view of Turkey’s determination to pursue a comprehensive program of indigenization of its armed forces and building cutting edge competencies, Turkey is investing in its native advanced arms manufacturers such as Aselsan that produces short and medium range missiles and electronic system for the military. According to HIS Jane Defence Weekly, Turkey assembled 60% of equipment that was delivered to its armed forces in 2014, with the United States (15%) and Spain (9%), the two other largest sources of equipment. Imports of foreign-made equipment were valued at USD1.5 billion in 2014, according to the IHS Balance of Trade 2015 report.
Turkey is aiming to achieve independence from imported equipment by 2023, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the IDEF Defense exhibition in Istanbul in May 2015. The Anatolia news agency quoted President Erdogan: “Our plan is to completely eliminate external dependency on Defense equipment supply with ongoing plans and investments until 2023,” on May 5. The President concluded: “Our next target in [the] Defense industry will be unique design.” Turkey also desires to join a prestigious club of large scale military suppliers such the United States, the key European powers, Russia, China, Israel and India, with the country looking to boost the value of Defense exports to USD25 billion by 2023.
Competing bids for the Turkish T-LORAMIDS contract were placed by US defense contractor Raytheon, the producer of the Patriot missile system, and Franko-Italian firm Eurosam with its SAMP/T system. Tender for procurement of components for the missile defense system estimated to cost $ 4 billion was announced by Turkey in 2009. The winner in September 2013, was declared a Chinese CPMIEC corporation, which offered the price of $ 3.4 billion. Unlike other competitors, China offered a co-production program of the missile systems in Turkey and a transfer its advanced technologies to the Turkish side. In addition to the Chinese company, Russian “Rosoboronexport” submitted its bid.
Turkey’s multi-billion dollar anti-missile defense system contract has been a hot topic since Turkey’s military procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM), chose the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) FD-2000 (HQ-9) long-range air and missile defense system over Western competitors, including the Italian-French Eurosam’s SAMP/T Aster 30 system in September 2013.
The decision to purchase the Chinese system was announced on September 26, 2013 by the Turkish leadership. Turkey intended to buy 12 battalions of S HQ-9 in the export model called FD-2000. The contract value was estimated at about 3.4 billion US dollars. According to official Turkish statements, the competitive cost and co-production agreement were the key reasons for choosing the Chinese anti-aircraft system. A few days after the announcement of the contract’s winner, the Turkish edition of the Hurriyet Daily News published an interview with the Head of the Secretariat of Defense Industry M. Bayard. The Turkish official said that the second place in the tender took SAM SAMP/ T, manufactured in Europe, and the third – the American family complexes Patriot. Russian S-300VM to did not make to the final stage of the tender.
After considering several offers by the foreign manufacturers, Turkey chose the air defense missile system HQ-9 (FD-2000) made in China. At the meeting September 2013, held under the chairmanship of then-Prime Minister RT Erdogan, the Secretariat of Defense Industry Ministry of Defense of Turkey approved the Chinese bid. Mr Bayard explained the details of the contract, which had been nearly signed. Turkey and China were going to build a SAM FD-2000 together. Half of all the work would be carried out on Turkish enterprises. China has promised to start supplying of ready-made systems and their individual components for assembly in Turkey in a short time. It was possible that Turkish officials were attracted not only by the characteristics and the price of the Chinese anti-aircraft system. From the very beginning of the competition, Turkey insisted to its bidders that Turkey wanted to assure that production of SAM would be carried by Turkish defense companies and thus help Turkish engineers learn the new technology. Russia and the US, as far as we know, were not ready to transfer this technology to Turkish industry.
Immediately after the announcement of the results of the tender, the representatives of the US and NATO expressed their serious concerns about the Turkish-Chinese deal. This choice of the Turkish military has caused confusion and discontent among Turkey’s Western allies. First, the North Atlantic Alliance and the United States conveyed messages about the issue of interoperability. Namely, how Turkey was intending to integrate Chinese-made SAM with NATO’s Command and Control system. Second, the United States was not satisfied with the fact that a NATO ally would buy military equipment from the Chinese CPMIEC Corporation, listed under US sanctions as a purveyor of military equipment to Iran and North Korea. The announcement of the victory of China’s bid in September of 2013 has caused serious concerns among its Western allies about a re-orientation pressure of Turkey towards the Eurasian pillar and away from NATO.
NATO raised objections to Turkey’s move, pointing out that missile systems used by members of the transatlantic military alliance must be compatible. NATO insisted the Chinese technology was not compatible with the evolving ballistic Missile Shield being built in Europe. Turkey also extended the deadline to announce its final decision about the contract while continuing negotiations with China’s state-run CPMIEC about technology transfer. Turkish defense officials said none of the bidder companies met Ankara’s demands on co-production and technology transfer and that it is the main reason behind the cancellation. The Chinese bid was almost finalized because the Chinese offered the best terms and price for the anti-missile system.
According to Turkish sources, after the cancellation Ankara is now planning to launch its own project to build a similar system. Turkish defense companies are already producing short- and middle-range ballistic missiles such as the J-600T Yıldırım (Thunderbolt), SOM Cruise Missile and a laser guided “Cirit” missile, but they are not yet capable of producing long-range missile systems.
The choice of such a system critical for country’s air defense has clear geopolitical implications. That is why it took so long to make the final decision. The final decision emerged as the result of several years of negotiations, discussions and China’s veiled threats. Even before the Russian bomber shootdown on November 24, increasing tensions with Russia over Moscow’s intervention in the civil war in Syria led to a re-assessment of Turkey’s security environment and Turkey’s long-term security priorities. As it is known, China cooperates in defense and security with Russia against Western interests. The Turkish leadership also made a critical decision taking into account the security concerns expressed by other members of NATO alliance.