Ümit ENGINSOY & Burak Ege BEKDIL Defence News
ANKARA - NATO officials have warned Turkey that if it buys Chinese or Russian air and missile defense systems, Ankara would operate them without the Western alliance's intelligence on incoming ballistic missiles.
Turkey's national air and missile competition has attracted bids from a U.S. partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot air defense system; Russia's Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300; China's CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp.), offering its HQ-9; and the Italian-French consortium Eurosam, maker of the SAMP/T Aster 30.
Turkish officials, who are planning to choose a system late this year or early next year, have declined to rule out the Chinese and Russian entries.
Many Western officials and experts say the Russian and Chinese systems are not compatible with NATO systems. If Ankara picks one, Moscow or Beijing may gain access to classified NATO information and disrupt alliance procedures, they say.
"If, say, the Chinese win the competition, their systems will be in interaction, directly or indirectly, with NATO's intelligence systems, and this may lead to the leak of critical NATO information to the Chinese, albeit inadvertently. So this is dangerous," one Western analyst said.
But one Western official here familiar with NATO matters said alliance officials won't let such information slip.
"If the Chinese or the Russians win the Turkish contest, their systems will have to work separately. They won't be linked to NATO information systems," the official said.
This was the first time NATO strongly urged Turkey against choosing the non-Western systems.
"One explanation is that Turkey itself doesn't plan to select the Chinese or Russian alternatives eventually, but still is retaining them among their options to put pressure on the Americans and the Europeans to curb their prices," the Western expert said.
Turkey's long-range air and missile defense systems program, or T-Loramids, has been designed to counter both enemy aircraft and missiles.
Turkey's national air and missile defense program is totally separate and independent from NATO's own plans to design, develop and build a collective missile shield.
Under that NATO plan, approved last November during a summit meeting in Lisbon, the Western alliance agreed to create the collective missile shield against incoming ballistic missiles from rogue countries. Ankara agreed to the decision only after the alliance accepted a Turkish request that neither Iran nor other countries would be specifically mentioned as potential threats.
NATO is seeking to deploy a special X-band radar on Turkish territory for early detection of missiles launched from the region. Senior U.S. and Turkish officials in mid-July discussed the matter in Istanbul on the sidelines of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and both sides reported progress toward an agreement on eventual deployment of the radar.
Ideally, in the event of a launch of a ballistic missile from a rogue state, the launch would be detected by the Turkish-deployed X-band radar, which would send targeting data to U.S. Aegis missile destroyers to be deployed in the eastern Mediterranean and, potentially, to land-based launchers in Romania.
U.S.-made SM-3 interceptor missiles would then be fired to hit the incoming missiles in mid-flight.