Turkey to purchase long-range air defense system

June 13, 2012, Wednesday/ 14:50:00/ EMRE SONCAN

Amid growing uncertainties ignited by the unfolding 14-month-old Syrian crisis and escalating tension between Iran and the West, Turkey is preparing to purchase a long-range air defense system worth $4 billion to beef up its defense capabilities in order to avert any threat to its national security.

Turkey has sped up the procurement process of the system in recent months and will reach a final decision in an upcoming meeting of the Defense Industry Implementation Committee (SSİK), which will be led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 4, sources from the Ministry of Defense said.

The Patriot missile long-range air defense system produced by US partners Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, 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 are the main competitors for the tender.

Turkey has dismissed NATO's early warnings to not purchase non-Western systems, namely Chinese and Russian systems, to prevent them from accessing classified NATO information.

NATO considers any possible Chinese success in the bid as dangerous, citing the risks of leaking critical NATO information to a non-Western country which is not regarded as an ally of the North Atlantic organization. According to Western officials, this is nothing more than a tactic employed by Turkish officials to curb the prices of the Western systems.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) do not currently have a long-range surface-to-air (SAM) platform in their stock. Turkey currently possesses Rapier and Stinger rocket launchers for its short-range air defense system. In addition, the American-made Hawk PIP III missile system is currently in service providing medium-range and low-to-medium range defense against various targets and threats.

The First Gulf War in 1991 revealed an urgent need for a long-range air defense system in the face of the threat posed by Iraq's Scud missile system. NATO sent the Patriot air defense system to Turkey to meet its defense needs during the Gulf War in 1991 and the Iraq War in 2003.

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