The Turkish government is anticipated in coming days to announce a shortlist of defense contractors to handle a massive $4 billion order for a national missile defense system, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, June 11).
An unidentified Western diplomatic insider said the list of final candidates for the contract would be released July 11 or 12.
Competitors against the U.S. firm Lockheed Martin's Patriot antimissile technology includes Rosoboronexport's S-300 and S-400 systems, Eurosam's SAMP/T Aster 30 and the China Precision Machinery Import and Export HQ-9.
Eurosam previously was not considered likely to be chosen due to a 2011 diplomatic falling out between France and Turkey. However, former President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent loss in national elections has improved the European anti-air missile manufacturer's odds of being selected, according to the envoy (Agence France-Presse/Daily Star, June 29).
A number of Western analysts and officials would oppose the selection of either Rosoboronexport or China Precision Machinery Import and Export on the grounds that their technology cannot be integrated with other NATO nations' antimissile systems. There are also concerns about maintaining the integrity of the alliance's missile defense plans, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Ankara has refused, though, to take the Russian and Chinese firms out of the running despite the criticism from its NATO partners.
"One explanation is that Turkey itself doesn't plan to select the Chinese or Russian alternatives eventually, but is still retaining them among their options to put pressure on the Americans and the Europeans to curb their prices," one analyst said.
Western sources are concerned the selection of a Russian or Chinese defense contractor would supply Moscow or Beijing with a back-door avenue for acquiring sensitive information about NATO defenses.
"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," an anonymous Western analyst said.
Brussels would not allow its defense procedures to be jeopardized in such a way, one unidentified Western official insisted. "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."
NATO is in the process of establishing a European ballistic missile shield to protect the continent from potential missile strikes from the Middle East. The antimissile framework is to involve deployed U.S. assets as well as the antimissile systems of individual NATO countries in Europe. Turkey is already hosting a long-range radar base as part of the missile shield (Ümit Enginsoy, Hurriyet Daily News, June 29).
The Turkish government is anticipated in coming days to announce a shortlist of defense contractors to handle a massive $4 billion order for a national missile defense system, Agence France-Presse reported.