Top military body to discuss long-range missile purchase

December 07, 2011, Wednesday/ 13:48:00/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM

Turkey's top military council will discuss plans to acquire long-range missiles as Ankara seeks to improve national missile defense capacities amid threats from Russia and Iran, a news report said on Wednesday.

The Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), set to convene next week, will discuss the issue, with a final decision expected to be made by the Defense Industry Implementation Committee (SSİK) by the end of the month, the Akşam daily reported.

The report comes after Turkey's southern neighbor Iran threatened to hit NATO's defense installations in eastern Anatolia if the Islamic republic comes under attack from the US or Israel. Turkey agreed to host an X-band radar system at a military base in the eastern town of Kürecik as part of a NATO-backed missile shield designed to protect NATO's European members from growing threats of ballistic missiles. NATO mentions no country as a source of threat, in line with Turkey's demands to that effect, but the missile system is widely known to be designed to counter threats from Iran.

Russia, cautious over the NATO missile shield, has also threatened to deploy missiles to target the missile defense system in Europe if Washington fails to assuage

Moscow's concerns about its plans.

Turkey has dismissed concerns from Russia, saying it only hosts a radar system and not missiles and that the radar is for defensive purposes. On Wednesday, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz reiterated that deployment of US radar in Turkey was for defensive purposes. “It becomes for offensive purposes if you install missiles. What we are going to deploy in Turkey is a radar system,” Yılmaz told reporters when asked about the Iranian threat. “This is a defense system and is not against any country.”

Turkey has long planned to develop its own national missile defense system and the world's major producers are competing to win the go-ahead from Ankara to produce long-range missiles. NATO's missile defense system is set to improve Turkey's national missile defense capabilities although it does not invalidate the need for a national defense system.

Russian S-300 and S-400 missiles, Chinese HQ-9 and US Patriot missiles are all competing in Turkey's national missile defense system project. Akşam said Turkish policymakers tend towards Raytheon and Lockheed Martin's Patriots, given that it will be compatible with the NATO system.

If the purchase goes ahead as planned, Turkey will acquire 13 missile batteries and 72 missiles, Akşam said.

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