Turkey on Saturday said a controversial deal with China to purchase a long-range missile-defense system is not yet final, saying it could halt it if a U.S. or European defense bidder offers better terms on a similar system, the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman reported.
NATO and the United States are concerned the Chinese system Ankara may acquire -- the FD-2000 antimissile system manufactured by state-owned China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp. -- will not be compatible with the missile-defense technology that other NATO member states are contributing to the alliance's evolving ballistic missile shield. There also are concerns about Chinese developers building digital vulnerabilities into the system that could be secretly accessed by Chinese hackers looking for information about NATO military plans and data.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government is ready to examine any new contract proposals that might be made by the teams of U.S. and European defense companies that were competing with the Chinese state-owned CPMIEC company. If the U.S. Lockheed Martin-Raytheon team or the Italian-French team of Eurosam want to offer co-production with Turkey, "we could continue holding talks with them, too," Davutoglu said to reporters.
Ankara says it made the initial decision to go with the FD-2000 system because at $3.4 billion it was substantially less expensive than the Patriot antimissile equipment offered by the U.S. contractors or the SAMP/T Aster 30 technology offered by Eurosam. Also, the Chinese system could be co-produced with Turkey, allowing for knowledge transfer. Turkey is very interested in co-production as it greatly wants to improve its own defense industries.
"We have a concern," the foreign minister said. "Why are they [other bidders] avoiding co-production?"
In a phone interview with Global Security Newswire earlier this month, Orville Prins, vice president of International Air and Missile Defense Programs at Lockheed Martin, said he thought the proposal offered by his company and Raytheon "did a very good job responding to" Turkey's needs for co-production. "We thought we had a very competitive proposal," he said.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frederick Ben Hodges, who leads NATO's Land Command Headquarters in Izmir, in an interview with CNN Turk said "cybersecurity reasons" have given the alliance reason to be concerned with the potential acquisition of the Chinese missile defense system, al-Monitor reported on Friday.
"NATO will never allow, in my view should never allow, a Chinese-designed system to be able to plug into the NATO Integrated Missile Defense System," the lieutenant-general was quoted as saying.