23 July 2012 / EMRE SONCAN, ANKARA
As Turkey faces challenges to its national security in a volatile region amid ongoing uncertainties ignited by the Arab Spring and the unfolding nuclear crisis between the West and Iran, it has accelerated the process of a developing a ballistic missile system to beef up its defense capabilities.
According to information acquired by Today’s Zaman from sources within the Defense Ministry, Ankara will produce its own ballistic missile system to avert any threat directed against Turkish national security. The decision was taken in a recent meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 17.
Turkey delayed its final decision on the tender for a long-range air defense system at the meeting ahead of Erdoğan’s visit to Russia. The main competitors for the tender are US partners Raytheon and Lockheed Martin with the Patriot missile long-range air defense system; Russia’s Rosoboronexport with its S-400 system; China’s HQ9, exported as FD-2000; and Italian-French Eurosam with its SAMP/T Aster 30.
“There are ongoing meetings on what can be done regarding ballistic missiles. The establishment of satellite launch vehicles will provide the capability of sending missiles outside the atmosphere,” a Defense Ministry official told Today’s Zaman. This will help to reach the critical edge for ballistic missile technology.
The United States, China, the UK, France and India are among the countries which have a long-range air defense and ballistic missile systems. Acquisition of this technology means gaining the capability to fire at targets anywhere in the world, including those far away from the launching site.
Officials underlined that it is an imperative and necessity for Turkey to produce and develop such missiles to maintain its deterrent capability and to feel safe in an insecure environment. The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) is now developing a missile called an SOM with a range of 300 kilometers. This will be a first step towards developing a ballistic missile with a range of 2,500 kilometers. Unlike other types of missiles, ballistic missiles can fly beyond the Earth’s atmosphere as they don’t burn oxygen, meeting no air resistance. A ballistic missile spends most of its flight in space. After the lunch, the missile arches up from one point and lands at another point. It is difficult to detect a ballistic missile on radar and harder to intercept a ballistic missile than a conventional one.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman on Monday on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, an official from the Defense Ministry said the committee in its last meeting decided to work on a new project, which aims to establish Turkey’s own satellite launch vehicle. According to speculations, Ankara may work with an Eastern European country which retains Soviet-era systems and experience in this field to develop a satellite launch vehicle.