Eurosam is proposing the Aster 30 for Turkey's long-range air and anti-missile defense system program. (MBDA)
ANKARA — For a fourth time since September, Turkey’s procurement authorities extended a deadline for all three bidders in a disputed air defense contract to submit their renewed proposals, a move officials and analysts link to presidential elections.
Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), set the new deadline at Aug. 30 only hours before the last one expired on June 30.
“We’ve sent the extension to all three bidders,” a senior SSM official said.
US and European bidders have been trying to snatch the contract from their Chinese rival which Turkey selected last September in its first program to build a long-range air and anti-missile defense system.
“The final decision may have to wait until the presidential elections and the formation of a new government this fall,” another official familiar with the program said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced July 1 that he will run for president on Aug. 10. If candidates fail to garner more than 50 percent of the national vote a second round will be held on Aug. 24. Analysts widely expect Erdogan to win the presidential election and reorganize his party and the government at an extraordinary convention in September. They expect a Cabinet reshuffle, which may include Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz.
In addition to the Chinese company, the bidders for the air defense contract comprise a partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, makers of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system; and the European group Eurosam, maker of the Aster 30 missile.
In September, Turkey said it selected China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC) to build the system. CPMIEC’s bid was priced at $3.44 billion.
Turkey has been in contract negotiations with CPMIEC, but under increasing pressure from its NATO allies it also has urged rival US and European bidders to improve their offers.
Turkey said in September that Eurosam’s offer ranked second while the US solution came in third. The fourth bidder, the Russian maker of the S-300/400, was eliminated from the contest. But industry sources say the US offer recently has gained ground because it has a more favorable delivery timetable than Eurosam’s.