US soldiers work on a Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep. Turkey could eventually begin building its own long-range anti-missile system. (Agence France-Presse)
ANKARA — Military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm, could become involved in construction of long-range air and anti-missile defense systems, company officials said, if China builds a controversial missile defense system for Ankara.
Murad Bayar, Turkey’s chief procurement official, said that his office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), may work with a local company to build an air defense system.
“For that purpose we can work with a local company whose work is in line with our [air defense] road map,” Bayar said.
Cengiz Ergeneman, Aselsan’s general manager, said that his company may volunteer for the task.
“If we want a system controlled by ourselves, we have to make it by ourselves. After completing a medium-level air defense missile, we will also make a long-range defense [system]. We will be dependent on the basic design of the system that we choose. Turkey’s engineering capacity is sufficient to do it,” he told reporters.
But that would come only after the Turkish Armed Forces’ immediate need for air defenses have been met, according to Bayar. Local production would then proceed in parallel with the system chosen to meet that “immediate demand.”
Turkey, a member of NATO, said in September it had chosen an air and missile defense system to be built by China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, a company that is on a United States’ sanctions list.
Analysts said Aselsan would in the future base its work for long-range defense systems on the China-made system.
“Apparently, the Turks are hoping to earn certain capabilities from the China-based program and use it for local production in the longer-term,” said one London-based Turkey specialist.