Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 140

As Turkey moves to upgrade its weapons systems, Ankara is considering all options and possible suppliers, including Moscow. The value of such runs into billions of dollars, generating intense competition, particularly over contracts to supply Turkey with an advanced surface-to-air missile system, with potential capabilities against ballistic missiles. While Turkey’s relations with Syria and Iran are generally good, many Turkish government and military officials share the West’s long-term concerns about Iran’s growing interest and capabilities in missiles and weapons of mass destruction (see EDM, May 7).

Turkey’s civilian agency for military procurement, the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM), is advising the Defense Ministry and has the final say on the tenders. Russia’s S-400 “Triumph,” NATO-codenamed SA-21 “Growler,” is competing against the American companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, which offer a combination of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC 3) and PAC 2 ABMs. Another American entrant, Boeing, is offering its Arrow missile system, developed jointly with Israel’s Aerospace Industries (IAI). The Chinese HQ-9 air defense system is also in the contest.

According to sources within Turkish defense industry, Russia’s arms export agency Rosoboronexport has attempted to sidestep the SSM’s Request for Proposal (RfP) procedure. Rosoboronexport, which has been lobbying for the contract since March 2007, switched its offer last month into direct state-to-state negotiations, trying to sell a dozen S-400 missile systems worth $4 billion (Zaman, July 21). The SSM earlier rebuffed the Kremlin’s offer of direct sales, advising Rosoboronexport instead to submit a RfP.

An issue yet to be resolved is Turkey’s interest in winning bids incorporating both technology transfer and indigenous manufacturing of system components in Turkey. That issue has in the past has bedeviled U.S. attempts to sell advanced fighter aircraft to Turkey because of disputes over their accompanying aviation software packages. Reflecting U.S. concern over Ankara’s consideration of the Russian bid, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during a visit to Ankara cautioned that such a purchase would interfere with NATO interoperability standards. Gates pointed out that Ankara could and should discuss the purchase with its Allies (Millet Haber, May 7).

According to Russia’s Air Defense Forces Commander, Colonel-General Yury Solovyov, the S-400 boasts a launch speed of up to 3 miles per second and can intercept and destroy airborne targets at a range of up to 250 miles, which is twice the defensive range of the MIM-104 Patriot and 2.5 times that of its predecessor, the S-300PMU-2. Further according to Solovyov, the S-400 could also be used for limited purposes in space defense, but was not designed for intercepting and destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles (RIA-Novosti, June 12).

It is a measure of Moscow’s eagerness to conclude the sale that Russia’s own armed forces have yet themselves to be equipped with this system. According to Russia’s Air Force Commander, Colonel-General Aleksandr Zelin, the first battalion of S-400 missiles defending Moscow and Central Russia was scheduled to become operational on July 1, 2007, but the date was postponed (RIA Novosti, May 21, July 7). And according to the Air Force’s air defense chief, Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Gorkov, Russia plans to deploy new air defense systems, primarily around Russia’s important administrative and political centers, in two stages until 2015 (RIA Novosti, July 13).

Despite the system’s teething problems, then-President Vladimir Putin was sufficiently impressed with the Almaz Central Design Bureau’s S-400 that on April 30 he issued a presidential decree awarding state orders and medals to designers of the Antaeus S-400 system (www.almaz-antey.ru).

Following a July 22 meeting of the Turkish Defense Industry Executive Board chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul told journalists that the board had approved opening negotiations with the Anglo-German joint venture Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft and Marine Force International (HDW-MFI) about building six diesel electric U-214 design submarines in a contract potentially worth $4 billion (Haber, July 22). Under the terms of the proposed contract, the boats are to be constructed at Turkey’s Golcuk Naval Shipyard, with the first submarine to be delivered in 2015. Besides Erdogan and Gonul, the other Executive Board members are the General Staff Chief, Army Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, and chief procurement official Murad Bayar.

Among the other bidders on the Turkish tender were France’s DCNS (Armaris) and Spain’s Navantia S.A. (Sabah, July 23). Lockheed Martin, competing for the missile PfP, was also involved as systems integrator with the Navantia offer.

Howaldtswerke, based in Lubeck, has over the last five decades built more than 100 submarines for fifteen different nations, including Israel’s Dolphin-class boats. No U.S. companies competed directly for the Turkish submarine tender, as the U.S. shut down its diesel submarine production lines in the 1950s after the U.S. Navy submarine program switched to nuclear propulsion.

In line with Turkey’s interest in indigenous production, Gonul said that Turkish industrial participation would be worth around 80 percent of the total value of the project, with Turkish industrial subcontractors providing about 20 of the submarines’ systems and sub-systems (Hurriyet, July 23).

The Turkish Navy’s U-214 submarine, operated by a 40-man crew, will have a 50-day patrol capability and a 12,000-mile operational range. Under the terms of the tender, 15 percent of the project’s cost will be paid in advance, with the remainder covered by a loan (Sabah, July 23).

As Turkey upgrades its military capabilities, Ankara is insisting that technology transfer be an integral part of successful bids. While Washington has thus far been hesitant to agree to such terms, preferring to provide “complete” weapons packages, Moscow is more flexible on the issue. This indicates that the Pentagon’s previous hammerlock on its allies’ weapons purchases may be a thing of the past, and Ankara finds itself in the luxurious position of choosing between multiple offers, a pattern that arms manufacturers are likely to encounter increasingly in the future.