ANKARA — Turkey is likely to pursue an indigenous long-range air and anti-missile defense system since recently canceling a competition, although analysts are split over how much foreign help local companies will need.
One senior procurement official said local development looks like the most feasible option.
“We believe that a group of local companies are capable of developing the system, with or without foreign know-how,” he said.
The government may soon commission missile maker Roketsan and military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm, to go ahead with the program. Both companies are state-controlled.
A source from Aselsan said that it was not clear what level of foreign know-how the Turkish companies would need for the program.
“This [program] will be a challenge for the local industry. But we are confident that once completed Turkey will have earned local capabilities to counter long-range air and missile threats,” the source said.
A Roketsan executive said that both Turkish companies possessed the engineering resources necessary for the program, dubbed T-LORAMIDS.
“We may work with a foreign partner or partners at the initial stages of the program,” he said.
Two years ago, Turkey selected China Precision Machinery Import Export Corp (CPMIEC) for the $3.44 billion project. But Ankara came under pressure from its NATO allies over the possibility of selecting a Chinese system, and launched parallel talks with the European and US contenders. On Nov. 13, Turkey canceled the competition.
A military official said cancellation of the foreign competition did not mean Turkey gave up on the program.
“The threats which required these [long-range air and anti-missile] capabilities still exist. This will remain a priority program involving indigenous work,” he said.
In addition to CPMIEC, Turkey had been in talks with Eurosam, maker of the SAMP-T, and a US partnership of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, maker of the Patriot system.
At the end of October, Turkey’s top procurement chief, Ismail Demir, said Ankara had reached a “certain clarity” in its pending decision on the air defense system.
“We are reviewing several parameters. We want to make a decision without a further extension,” Demir said.
Industry experts warn that Turkey’s efforts to develop an indigenous system could be costly and take longer than expected.
“Turkey does not have the expertise in this kind of technology for a swift and economical solution,” one London-based expert said.
Sitki Egeli, a missile defense expert, said a local program would take 10 to 15 years to develop and manufacture.
“Turkey’s only option is to partner with a country or a group of countries that possess these capabilities and are willing to share them,” Egeli said. “Turkey must be patient and prepared to allocate a big budget for a program of this size.”
Turkey in 2007 designed a program to indigenously develop and produce short- and medium-altitude air defense systems, granting the work to a partnership of Aselsan and Roketsan. In October 2013, Aselsan completed the test launch of its first domestically developed and manufactured low-altitude air defense missile, Hisar-A, and set to work on Hisar-O, the medium-altitude system. Proponents say Turkey could build on the success of these programs to create its own long-range system.
Prime contractor Aselsan is developing all radar, fire control, command, control and communication systems for the program while Roketsan is acting as the executive subcontractor. Ideally, the Hisar-A system, which will protect against all kinds of airborne targets thanks to its vertical launch capability, will enter the Turkish military inventory in 2017, but industry sources said the program faces delays due to technical snags.
When combined and made interoperable, Hisar-A and Hisar-O will destroy threats at low-medium altitude. The program involves the development and production of two types of ground systems; self-propelled, armored vehicle-mounted air defense missile systems; and the missile.
Hisar-A is an air defense missile system mounted on a self-propelled armored vehicle and can be fully autonomous by means of 3-D radar, electro-optic system, command, control and fire control.