Turkey confirmed on Friday it had asked international defense firms to maintain their proposals for supplying the country with a national missile-defense system, Reuters reported.
Anonymous sources told the news agency late last month that Ankara had asked the U.S. Raytheon-Lockheed Martin team to extend its offer for Patriot antimissile technology while it carried out discussions for a possible purchase contract for the FD-2000 missile-defense system manufactured by China.
"When these bids are submitted, everyone says their bids are valid until a particular date in terms of price and the date of delivery," Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster TRT. "If there is a deadlock with the first bidder, we will turn to the second bidder. So we said, extend the validity of your bids, this is what we have asked."
The Turkish government's September announcement it had chosen the Chinese FD-2000 over antimissile systems offered for sale by European, Russian and U.S. defense firms caused an uproar in the United States and in NATO due to worries the technology could not be integrated into the alliance's ballistic-missile shield. There also are concerns Chinese developers might install digital backdoors into the system that would provide China access to classified NATO data. A number of senior U.S. officials have visited Ankara in recent weeks in an attempt to convince Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's administration to abandon contract talks with the Chinese.
Yilmaz said if international defense firms want to improve their missile-defense proposals to Turkey, "it would ease our hand in negotiations with China."
The Turkish military is not pleased with the selection of the Chinese antimissile system, seeing it as "second-hand, not battle-tested and cheap," according to a report in Today's Zaman.
Well-informed military insiders told the newspaper that when Turkish generals met with U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller last week, they told him they were disappointed the U.S. team had not made a better technology transfer offer in their Patriot missile-defense bid.