ANKARA—Three years after disqualifying a Russian bidder for being too expensive, Turkey invited the same contender into the same contract for the acquisition of the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system.
Turkish diplomatic and procurement sources said that the Russian contender was “invited” to make a bid again after Turkish and Russian presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul Oct. 10 on the sidelines of a global energy conference.
Turkey has been trying to mend fences with Russia after its Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter last November for violation of the Turkish airspace along Turkey’s border with Syria. After the incident Turkey and Russia froze diplomatic ties and Moscow imposed punishing commercial sanctions on Turkey. Under pressure Erdogan in August had to apologize and asked for détente.
Turkey in September 2013 selected a Chinese manufacturer, China Precision Manufacturing Import-Export Corp (CPMIEC), for its air defense architecture. Ankara said CPMIEC’s offer was priced at $3.44 billion.
The Russian bid was disqualified because it was “too expensive.” Officials familiar with the program said that the Russian solution was “twice more expensive” than the best price. Other contenders were a consortium of US companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, maker of the Patriot system, and the European Eurosam, maker of the SAMP-T.
Under pressure from its NATO allies, in November 2015, the Turkish government decided to cancel the Chinese contract and leaned forward building an indigenous system. It commissioned two local defense companies, Roketsan and Aselsan, to develop the system.
But since then Ankara has been negotiating, in parallel talks, with the US and European bidders. Now with the decision to invite a Russian manufacturer into the competition Turkey is opening up a three-way race.
Defense experts say that if Turkey selects a Russian air and anti-missile defense system it will have to limit itself to a stand-alone architecture, like it would when it selected the Chinese system. They say a Russian system, like a Chinese system, will not be made inter-operable with the U.S. and NATO assets deployed in Turkey.