By Mike Gruss Jan. 10, 2014 WASHINGTON
The recently passed U.S. defense authorization bill aims to prevent Turkey from following through with plans to integrate a Chinese-built missile defense system into a NATO architecture that includes U.S. interceptors.
In September, Turkish government leaders chose a Chinese company, China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp., for a multibillion-dollar contract to provide a long-range missile and air defense systems. The selection of the Chinese system, dubbed HQ-9, created consternation within the U.S. industry and government. The State Department in February 2013 sanctioned the Chinese company over proliferation concerns.
Among the losing bidders for the contract was a team of U.S. defense industry giants Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md. Both companies have said that, should Turkey change its mind, they are ready to provide alternative systems.
Now, with National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 signed into law Dec. 26, Turkey might have a difficult time refusing their offer. The measure bars the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to integrate the Chinese system into the NATO architecture.
“We are concerned that the Government of Turkey made an initial decision to purchase a Chinese air and missile defense system for its territorial use,” lawmakers said in a statement explaining the provision. “Such a system would not be compatible with, and should not be integrated with, missile defense systems of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”
The bill also requires the U.S. secretary of defense and the Government Accountability Office to submit to congressional defense committees “a report on the status and progress of regional missile defense programs and efforts.” The bill requests a similar report from the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and Joint Force Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.
Turkey, a NATO member for more than 60 years, asked the alliance in 2013 to bolster the country’s air defenses. In November, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the United States would add two NATO-controlled Patriot missile batteries for Turkey’s defense for up to one year.
Around the same time, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated to Turkish leaders Washington’s desire that Ankara purchase a “NATO interoperable system,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a Nov. 19 press briefing.
In an earnings call Oct. 24, William Swanson, chairman and chief executive of Raytheon, said if Turkey runs into problems with the HQ-9, the company is ready to offer the Patriot air defense system as an alternative.
“Clearly, Turkey as a country made a decision, and they decided to do it based on price,” Swanson said. “In my experience, in price, when you buy that way, you don’t get all the capabilities you want, and so they’re going to have to deal with that.
“You have to integrate it into NATO, which is going to be difficult at best and will not happen as quick as people want it to happen. From our standpoint, they’ve started the negotiation process. We’ll see what happens. But if Turkey runs into problems, we remain positioned and stand ready to help them with Patriot.”
Lockheed Martin offered a similar assessment.
“We welcome the opportunity to continue discussions with the Turkish government for their critical missile defense needs,” Craig Vanbebber, a Lockheed Martin spokesman, said in an email Jan. 9.
The Raytheon-Lockheed system fires the Lockheed Martin Patriot Advance Capability (PAC)-3 and Raytheon GEM-T anti-air missiles.
Other competitors included the Italian-French Eurosam, proposing its SAMP/T Aster 30 system, and Russia’s Rosoboronexport, marketing the S300.