Turkey’s Defense Industry Chief stressed on 07 March that Turkey is open to collaboration with other countries and is eager to develop its own missile defense system technology. It is noteworthy that his remarks followed the first successful test of the joint US-Israel “David’s Sling” Air Defense System in Israel’s Nagev desert on March the 1st. If, or when, the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation to get initiated, a potential co-operation in the defense field may pave the way to restore the missing trust in between two major regional powers in the Middle East.
Defense Industry Undersecretary Mr. Demir said the Turkish defense industry wants to develop its own long-range missile defense system, adding that it is open to cooperation proposals regarding strategies and technology during the development phase.
Turkey previously canceled a $3.4 billion long-range missile defense system contract process in November – one that was provisionally awarded to China in 2013 – opting instead to launch its own project to build the system. Turkey’s multi-billion dollar, anti-missile defense system contract has been a hot-button issue since Turkey’s military procurement agency, the undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM), chose the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) FD-2000 (HQ-9) long-range air and missile defense system over Western competitors, which included the Italian-French Eurosam’s SAMP/T Aster 30 system, in September 2013.
Government officials announced that they preferred China’s offer for its competitiveness and potential for co-production in Turkey. However, NATO raised objections to the move, pointing out that missile systems used by members of the transatlantic military alliance must be compatible. NATO insists the Chinese technology is not compatible with the evolving ballistic missile shield being built in Europe. Turkey also extended the deadline to announce its final decision regarding the contract amid ongoing negotiations with China’s state-run CPMIEC about the transfer of technology. Thus far, sources in the Turkish defense industry have said none of the bidding companies were able to meet Ankara’s demands in terms of co-production and technology transfer.
“David’s Sling” is an Israel Defense Forces military system being jointly developed by the Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the American defense contractor Raytheon, designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium-to-long range rockets and cruise missiles, fired at ranges from 40 km (24.85 miles) to 300 km (186.41 miles). David’s Sling is meant to replace the MIM-23 Hawk and MIM-104 Patriot in the Israeli arsenal. It is designed to intercept the newest generation of tactical ballistic missiles, such as Russia’s Iskander, a new generation surface-to-surface missile (SSM) developed to replace old SCUD missiles in Moscow’s and its allies’ inventory.
Turkey, on the other hand, is desperately in need of a multi-layered and NATO-compatible air defense system to replace its almost dysfunctional MIM-23 Hawk air defense systems. It is crucial to remind here that Turkey is hosting a key element of NATO Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability on its soil; the AN/TPY-2 radar in Kurecik Base also developed by Raytheon. Turkey, sooner the better, will develop its own air defense system in co-operation with an ally (or allies) it chooses, but as it caused serious concerns before, this air defense system will likely to get integrated into NATO BMD, in one way or another.
As per airborne threats Turkey needs to address, Russian Surface-to-Surface and Ground Based Cruise Missile threats top the list by far since there is currently no means and capabilities in Turkey’s inventory to counter that kind of threat. Turkey has long followed a meticulous course of “balanced diplomacy” with the Russia but it is obvious to both parties now that this is not the case anymore. In addition to Russian missile threat, Turkey is surrounded by a league of nations posing significant SSM threats, to include Iran with Shahab-3, Armenia with all kinds of Russian made SSM arsenal and Assad in Syria with Fateh-110 missiles. Although there is no solid indication of such a move, should Putin deploys Iskander missiles to Crimea, it would cover almost every single key asset in Turkey, including the capital itself. David’s Sling can even intercept the rockets fired into Turkey by ISIS from the Syrian side.
Implications on Turkey’s Risk Indicators
A reconciliation with Israel, potentially leading to a defense cooperation, will significantly reduce the mounting pressure on Armed Aggression, Political Instability and Terrorism/Security risk indicators of Turkey. In a time when the tensions are building up in between NATO and Soviet blocks once again since the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989, as it is very well put by President Erdogan on January the 2nd, “Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region and we too must accept that we need Israel. This is a reality in the region”