18.04.2013 Burak Bekdil - ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Looking to sweeten the pot before a multibillion dollar tender, Raytheon says there would be no US block on a defense transfer to Turkey if it wins the bid
A senior executive at U.S. defense company Raytheon has ruled out the possibility of a U.S. governmental or congressional blockade against the delivery of a critical air defense and anti-missile system, dubbed as T-LORAMIDS, if Turkey chose the Patriot solution in multi-billion dollar international bidding.
“Turkey is a valuable ally of the United States and a NATO partner. Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS program fulfills an important NATO air and missile defense commitment,” Mike Boots, manager for the Turkey Patriot Program, told Hürriyet Daily News.
U.S. arms supplies to Turkey in the past have faced blockades on various pretexts including political issues. In the most recent example, the U.S. administration has not positively replied to a Turkish request to acquire the MQ-9 Reaper, an armed drone. Defense analysts agree that the MQ-9 is not a system the United States could share with any ally including, even, Britain.
Four international manufacturers are bidding for an estimated $4 billion Turkish contract. These are a U.S. partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot (PAC-3) air defense system; Russia’s Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300; China’s CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp.), offering its HQ-9; and the Italian-French consortium Eurosam, maker of the SAMP/T Aster 30.
In January Turkey decided to restructure the program but defense procurement officials said this did not mean a cancellation of the competition. They said they aimed to “enrich” modality by asking contenders to propose co-production solutions in addition to their off-the-shelf proposals.
Boots said Raytheon was already working closely with several Turkish defense companies to produce Patriot components for export to other countries, including strategic partnerships with Aselsan, Roketsan and Turkish defense companies Pagetel and Ayesas.
“In addition to those Turkish strategic partners that are currently producing Patriot, many other Turkish defense companies have the experience and skills we look for in our suppliers. As we win in other countries, they will get the opportunity to compete for additional work for those programs,” Boots said. T-LORAMIDS has been designed to counter both enemy aircraft and missiles. Turkey presently has no long-range air-defense systems.
Patriot is the backbone of NATO’s lower-tier defense. There are currently over 200 Patriot fire units deployed around the world with Raytheon’s 12 partners. The U.S. Army has committed to fielding Patriot beyond 2040.
In response to criticism that there are “considerable price differences” between the U.S. solution and rival offers, Boots said, “Patriot is the only battle-proven air- and missile-defense system, with over 600 test and combat intercepts, to provide unmatched capability.”
Some defense analysts have said building an air defense and anti-missile architecture may be a futile attempt for a country like Turkey that is geographically too big and faces multiple threats. They have said any architecture to cover most or the entire Turkish territory would be unaffordable.
“The Patriot system is highly mobile and can be transported on short notice to defend high-value assets, bases or population centers,” Boots said.
Defense officials said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had ordered a restructuring of the T-LORAMIDS program so that contenders would make additional coproduction offers. Erdoğan has been keen on local solutions in most defense modernization programs and insists on a pressing need for Turkey to acquire foreign technology “wherever, whenever possible.” In line with that policy, Turkey ambitiously hopes to develop, with foreign technological assistance, its own unmanned aerial vehicles, main battle tanks, submarines, corvettes, missiles, helicopters and even a fighter jet. “It should come as no surprise that Erdoğan wanted to reshape T-LORAMIDS so as to make the local industry earn some missile capabilities,” said an Ankara-based defense analyst. “He hopes these capabilities may help Turkey with its own missile program.”
In 2011 TÜBITAK-SAGE, a defense research and development arm for the state scientific research institute TÜBITAK, announced plans to design, develop and produce the SOM, a Turkish cruise missile with a range of 180 km.