A Chinese-made missile system beat out a Raytheon and Lockheed Martin's Patriot air defense system, pictured, for Turkish air defense. (NATO)
ANKARA — Scores of Turkish defense companies that would act as subcontractors on a $3.44 billion air defense contract with a Chinese company may face US sanctions because the Chinese company is on a US blacklist.
A senior US diplomat in Ankara said serious consequences could await Turkish companies involved in the program to build Turkey’s first long-range air and anti-missile system if China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp. (CPMIEC) wins the competition.
“Turkish entities to be involved in this program in partnership with CPMIEC would be denied access to any use of US technology or equipment in relation to this program,” the diplomat said. “No US equipment would ever be sold or authorized to be used anywhere in the program.”
A Feb. 5 public notice by the US State Department blacklists 13 companies for breach of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act, including CPMIEC.
Turkey’s top body overseeing procurement announced Sept. 26 that it selected CPMIEC to build the country’s first long-range air defense architecture, sparking a major dispute over whether the Chinese-built system could be integrated with the NATO air defense assets stationed in Turkey.
The Chinese contender defeated a US partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot air defense system; Russia’s Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300; and the Italian-French consortium Eurosam, maker of the SAMP/T Aster 30.
In October, US ambassador to Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, said, “We are concerned about that [Chinese] company, and its role as a nuclear weapons technology proliferator in the world. This is not a NATO system. China is not a member of NATO.”
The US diplomat said that Turkish companies working on US products or technology could be subject to intense scrutiny or requested to adopt stringent security measures to erect a wall between US technology-related activities and CPMIEC.
A Turkish procurement official downplayed the risk.
“We are aware of the US sanctions on the Chinese company. These are for US companies and subjects,” he said.
According to the US diplomat, however, the sanctions would be imposed on any company or individual cooperating with the blacklisted companies, especially where the use of US technology is in question.
“This situation increasingly looks like the twin crises we had with Israel in the 2000s,” he said.
In 2000 and 2005, US relations with its ally Israel were deeply strained after Israel’s sale of drones to China.
Turkish procurement officials said the Chinese bid came at a price tag of $3.44 billion. If contract negotiations with CPMIEC failed, talks would be opened with the second-place finisher, Eurosam, they said. Next in line would be the US bidder. The Russian option has been eliminated.
The Turkish program, dubbed T-LORAMIDS, consists of radar, launcher and intercept missiles. It has been designed to counter both enemy aircraft and missiles. Turkey has no long-range air defense systems.
About half of Turkey’s network-based air defense picture (radars) has been paid for by NATO. They are part of the NATO Air Defense Ground Environment. Without NATO’s consent it will be impossible for Turkey to make the planned Chinese system interoperable with these assets, some analysts said.
To defend against missile threats, Turkey needs satellite and dedicated ballistic missile detection and tracking radar such as the NATO radar deployed last year in Kurecik, in southeastern Turkey.
For the anti-aircraft component, Turkey needs an overall picture for data fusion. The Patriot system, for instance, can detect threats with its own radar. So does the Chinese system. But without integrating into a full air picture, the Chinese system could not work efficiently, analysts said.