Turkish Patriot Deployment Could Derail $4B Missile Deal
Dec. 3, 2012 - 08:07AM By BURAK EGE BEKDIL and UMIT ENGINSOY Defense News
ANKARA — A Turkish move to deploy NATO’s Patriot ground-to-air missiles on
its southern border with Syria has antagonized regional rivals Iran and
Russia. And defense industry sources say it could obviate the need for the
country’s $4 billion competition to build its own anti-missile and air
Turkey officially has asked NATO to deploy Raytheon’s Patriot missile
launchers and Lockheed Martin’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles,
saying that neighboring Syria’s civil war threatens its security.
Military officials from Germany and the Netherlands, owners of the NATO
systems, are conducting site surveys to determine possible deployment
locations. NATO’s top official, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has
pledged to finish the deal soon.
The request is creating tension in the region. Turkey’s former ally, Syria,
and its allies Iran and Russia condemned the move.
The relationship between Turkey and Syria has gone from bad to worse since
the uprising to oust Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, began almost two
years ago. Damascus has long accused Ankara of harboring, financing and
arming rebels fighting to oust Assad. Russia agrees with Syria and is
warning that the surface-to-air missiles could lead to a regional crisis.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said: “Any buildup of weapons
creates threats and risks. Any provocation can cause a very serious armed
conflict. We would like to avoid it by all means. We are perfectly aware of
Turkey’s concern over the security on its border.”
Rasmussen sought to reassure Moscow that Turkey’s decision is purely to
protect its own territory.
“The Turkish government stressed that the deployment will be defensive only,
and that it will in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive
operation,” he said. “The security of the alliance is indivisible. NATO is
fully committed to deterring against any threats and defending Turkey’s
“Turkey has its own reasons to have the systems on its soil. These reasons
are political, security-related and also financial,” said Ceyhun Erguven, an
analyst based here. “It is normal that a member country requests logistical
assistance from NATO because it feels threatened.”
The move could nullify Turkey’s own program to build long-range anti-missile
and air defense systems on its soil, industry sources said.
For the estimated $4 billion contract, the pan-European company Eurosam,
maker of the Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/Terrain Aster 30 system, is
competing with a Raytheon-Lockheed partnership marketing Patriots; Russia’s
Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300 system; and China Precision Machinery
Export-Import Corp., offering its HQ-9.
Turkey’s top decision-making body on defense, the Defense Industry Executive
Committee, had its most recent meeting in July and said that talks would
continue with four key foreign suppliers. The committee’s next meeting is
scheduled for late December or early January.
Turkey has no long-range air defense systems. All of the candidate systems,
in theory, are capable of hitting an incoming aircraft or missile.
Many Western officials and experts say the Russian and Chinese systems in
the Turkish competition are not compatible with NATO systems. The fear is
that either country’s potential victory could inadvertently provide it with
access to classified NATO information, and as a result, may compromise NATO’s
Despite this criticism, Turkey so far has resisted dropping the Chinese and
Analysts say the deployment of NATO assets on Turkish soil may add to doubts
that Turkey needs to independently build an air defense system and spend a
huge amount of money.
“The arrival of the Patriot systems, if endorsed by NATO, would already meet
Turkey’s requirement of a solid air defense system,” Erguven said. “This may
even lead to the cancellation of Turkey’s own contract for a similar
A procurement official familiar with the program said the matter would be
thoroughly discussed, with a final decision made at the next meeting of the
Defense Industry Executive Committee.
Industry sources say even if Turkey proceeds with its national air defense
system contract, procurement officials might feel obliged to shortlist the
U.S. and European contenders and drop the Russians and Chinese.
“Turkey and Russia are becoming increasingly hostile as each sides with
warring camps in the Syrian crisis,” one senior industry source said. “This
minimizes Rosoboronexport’s chances in the contract.
“China also quietly allies with Russia over the Syria war, and its solution
for Turkish air defenses is an almost replica of the Russian system. That
may oust the Chinese bid from the race, too.”