Turkey’s Islamist government reportedly is seeking to buy Chinese air defenses, a plan that is upsetting U.S. and NATO allies concerned about the Ankara government’s anti-Western leanings.
The Istanbul newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported Tuesday that Turkey is close to a decision on purchasing Chinese-made, long-range anti-missile and air defense weapons.
Turkey, a NATO ally, recently was hit with anti-Islamist street protests, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said by U.S. officials to be one of President Obama’s favorite foreign leaders.
“That would certainly leave many of us speechless,” a senior diplomat from a NATO country was quoted as saying of Turkey’s possible arms purchases from China. “Turkey has every right to choose its own air defense system, but we do not quite understand the logic of opting for a Chinese system with no interoperability with the existing [NATO] assets.”
A NATO defense attache in Ankara told the newspaper that Turkey’s deployment of Chinese air defenses would lead to “questioning Turkey’s geopolitical trajectory.”
A Turkish defense official told the paper that Ankara is strongly favoring the Chinese weaponry because Beijing’s proposal was cheaper and allowed for adequate technology transfer.
Contenders include U.S. Patriot anti-missile interceptors, Russia’s S-300 missile defenses and an Italian-French consortium’s system.
The Chinese company bidding for the Turkish contract is the China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp., a state-run company sanctioned by the U.S. government for missile proliferation. It is offering Turkey its HQ-9 missile defenses.
The use of a Chinese air and missile defenses would prevent Turkey from integrating its defenses with other NATO allies.
Richard Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said China and Turkey have been developing weapons together for the past decade.
“China is simply offering a price so low that Turkey simply cannot refuse,” Mr. Fisher said. “But China likely has a clear sales strategy. Buying the HQ-9 SAM will require that Turkey buy Chinese radar and network systems in order to keep the Chinese out of any systems controlled by NATO agreements that would not allow for access by the Chinese.”
MISSILE DEFENSE TEST
The Pentagon will conduct an attempted intercept test of its largest anti-missile interceptor on Friday, the Missile Defense Agency announced this week.
The MDA, along with the Air Force 30th Space Wing and U.S. Northern Command, will test a ground-based interceptor that is part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) of the national missile defense system.
“The GMD element provides defense of the Homeland against the threat of limited long-range ballistic missile attacks,” the MDA said in a statement.