Turkey weighs up tenders for defence system

Beijing hopes to beat rival tenders from the US, Russia, France and Italy to provide Ankara arms to build domestic defence shield

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 July, 2013, 5:32am

Turkey is considering adopting a Chinese air defence system that is incompatible with its existing Nato-sponsored early warning architecture, in a development that has disturbed Western allies.

But the deal may become a win-win option for both Beijing and Ankara, say analysts.

Beijing has offered several enticements to encourage Ankara to buy its long-range anti-missile HQ-9 air defence system, according to Hurriyet Daily News, a leading English newspaper in Turkey.

Chief among those is a lower price than the three rival tenders. US partnership Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are offering the Patriot air defence system; Russia's Rosoboronexport its S-400; and the Italian-French consortium Eurosam their SAMP/T Aster 30 system.

In January, Turkey restructured its US$4 billion surface-to-air missile programme, dubbed T-Loramids, which had originally been constructed as an off-the-shelf purchase consisting of radar, launchers and intercept missiles. As a Nato member equipped with the US' Patriot air defence systems, Turkey has been urged by its Western allies to remove China and Russia from its bidding list for air defence projects because of differences in their systems.

But Ankara has ignored the warnings, and has publicly declared its interest in adopting the Chinese HQ-9 system.

Emre Kizikaya, an Istanbul-based political commentator, said China's proposal would help his country build up its own air defence programme. "[The US'] Patriot PAC3 systems have a shorter range to build a missile shield. And the main problem is America's unwillingness to share the knowhow and software codes," he said.

Ankara believes that Beijing would share more about its HQ-9 systems, so that Turkey can use this purchase as a starting point to begin developing its own domestic system

"Ankara believes that Beijing would share more about its HQ-9 systems, so that Turkey can use this purchase as a starting point to begin developing its own domestic system."

Liu Jiansheng, a research fellow from the European division of the China Institute of International Studies, said China's chances of winning the bid are slim. "I suspect that Ankara wants to use China's proposals to get better deals from other bidders, especially the Americans, who are reluctant to share technologies with Turkey," he said.

"However, if Ankara ultimately chooses the HQ-9 system, it will be an unprecedented breakthrough for China's defence industry. It would mean Chinese advanced weapons have started opening up Nato's arms market, which has been monopolised by western countries in conjunction with the EU's arms embargo on Beijing [since 1989]."

Antony Wong Dong, of the Macau-based International Military Association, said it was possible Turkey could adopt the HQ-9 system due to the close military ties between Ankara and Beijing.

"Beijing is keen on cultivating diplomatic and military relations with Ankara because the Chinese authorities hope the Turkish government will help them wipe out Uygur separatists and terrorist training bases in Turkey," he said.

In 2010, the two nation's air forces held a joint exercise in Turkey's Konya province, marking the first time China had sent troops to a Nato country.