Slow-moving talks with the United States for the procurement of Patriot air defense systems have not matured, a senior Turkish official has said, while noting the country’s progress in ongoing cooperation with France and Italy’s Eurosam on SAMP/T systems.
İsmail Demir, the head of Turkey’s Defense Industry Presidency, provided updated information about the government’s talks with the suppliers of air defense systems that Turkey plans to procure in the near future, including Russia’s S-400s, the United States’ Patriots and the French-Italian consortium’s SAMP/T, in an interview with broadcaster NTV on June 8.
Defending Turkey’s airspace requires a layered air defense system that can deploy multiple weapons, including locally made Korkut and Hisar systems that are currently in the manufacturing process, Demir said.
“We had said that we are open up to the Patriot and Eurosam offers. We had said that we’d like to continue to work on these projects if there are concrete proposals. [The process on] the Patriots has not matured,” he said.
Ankara has repeatedly told Washington that it’s ready to purchase Patriots systems under certain conditions, including technology transfer and joint production.
Regarding the work with Eurosam for the joint production of the SAMP/T air defense systems, Demir said: “Generally, this is about producing a joint system by Turkey, Italy and France. Turkey is about to accomplish its own work. We will hit the road after the other two countries complete their work.”
Turkey and Eurosam agreed to work on what they called a definition study of the future Turkish Long-Range Air and Missile Defense System in 2017. The study aims to prepare a development and production contract for the future system that meets the Turkish Air Force’s operational requirements.
Turkey will use S-400s
When asked whether Turkey would activate the S-400s or keep them boxed up at a hangar in order to avoid U.S. sanctions, Demir said Turkey had procured the Russian systems “to use them.”
The activation process of the S-400s has been delayed due to the novel coronavirus, but efforts to activate them are underway, Demir said. “Let’s call it the second stage. This project contains certain aspects of production and technology. We are working on these.”
The defense industry head also said Turkey and Russia have, in principle, agreed to a deal for a second batch of S-400s, but added that a detailed study on technology transfer, details on joint production and an accompanying road map were still needed.
“Our gains [over the procurement of the S-400s] are more important than asking whether there will be a second batch. It’s not possible for Turkey to meet all its air defense needs with the S-400s,” Demir said.
F-35 project should continue
Writing in an article for the SETA think tank’s magazine Kriter, Demir also recalled Turkey’s call to continue the international partnership for the F-35 joint fighter project. Turkey was removed from the project last year after it deployed the S-400s air defense systems.
“This is a project with nine partners. A decision taken by only one partner is neither legal nor rational,” Demir said, stressing Turkey could resort to legal action.
Turkey’s exclusion from the project has multiplied the cost of the production of the F-35s, he said, underscoring that Turkey and the Turkish companies participating in production have remained steadfastly loyal to the project.