NATO has warned Turkey not to purchase antimissile technology from Russia or China if Ankara wants to have access to ballistic missile threat information from radar stations in alliance member states, the Hürriyet Daily News reported on Monday (see GSN, July 13).
The military alliance has agreed to establish a missile shield covering all of Europe. As part of that effort, member states are to augment and connect their individual antimissile capabilities (see GSN, July 22).
U.S. defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are competing as a team to have their Patriot interceptor technology selected for Turkish air and missile defense acquisitions. Their competitors include China Precision Machinery Export-Import's HQ-9 and the S-300 air defense system manufactured by Russian state firm Rosoboronexport. The Italian-French team of Eurosam is also marketing its SAMP/T Aster 30 to Ankara. A decision is expected in late 2011 or early 2012.
A number of analysts and officials from Western nations noted that the Chinese and Russian air defense technologies could not work with alliance systems. Awarding missile defense contracts to firms from either country could give them a window into secret NATO intelligence and might jeopardize the integrity of the alliance's operations, they said.
"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," said one Western specialist.
"NATO won’t let that happen," a different Western official said to the Turkish newspaper. "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."
Ankara, however, has yet to take off the table the possibility of purchasing Russian and Chinese missile defense systems, arguing there is no rationale for removing them from consideration.
"One explanation is that Turkey itself doesn’t plan to (ultimately) select the Chinese or Russian alternatives, but still is retaining them among their options to put pressure on the Americans and the Europeans to (lower) their prices," the Western analyst speculated.
Turkey's T-Loramids system was developed to defeat both hostile aircraft and missiles. The program exists entirely apart from the alliance's initiative to establish continent-wide missile protection.
The military bloc is in discussions with Ankara on installing an advanced X-band radar system on Turkish land. High-ranking Turkish and U.S. officials conferred on the issue earlier this month in Istanbul when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to the country. Officials said the talks were productive on reaching a radar agreement.
The X-band radar is envisioned as providing early warning should any ballistic missile be fired from the Middle East toward NATO territory. Standard Missile 3 interceptors deployed on U.S. Aegis warships stationed in the Mediterranean and eventually from a base in Romania could be launched to eliminate the threat (Ümit Enginsoy, Hürriyet Daily News, July 25).