ANKARA, Turkey — After dropping an earlier decision to acquire the country’s first long-range air- and anti-missile defense system from a Chinese contractor, Turkey’s procurement authorities are considering purchasing the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS).
The United States, Germany and Italy developed the ground-mobile air and missile defense system to replace the Patriot missile system through a NATO program.
As Turkey feels increasingly uneasy over threats in its region, a political and military understanding is emerging that a quick solution is needed on an air defense architecture, officials here said.
“We are facing a multitude of threats and may not have the luxury to wait for several years before an indigenous development program materializes,” said one senior security official.
After scrapping a three-way, US-European-Chinese competition last November, Turkey’s procurement bureaucracy tasked two local firms, military electronics specialist Aselsan and missile maker Roketsan, with developing the system.
But industry sources said indigenous development could take 10 years or longer.
Turkey has felt threatened especially after Russia significantly reinforced its military deployment in the eastern Mediterranean, Syria and the Caspian Sea. Turkey and Russia are fighting a proxy war in Syria.
The Russian reinforcements, including the installation of S-400 ground-to-air missile systems, have intensified since Nov. 24 when Turkish F-16 jets shot down a Russian Su-24 that Turkey claimed violated its airspace along the border with Syria.
Russia immediately announced a slew of commercial and other sanctions but President Vladimir Putin also hinted there could be military retaliation when he said the Russian sanctions would not be limited to “commerce and economy only.”
“Shifting geopolitical balances in the region dictate that a system like MEADS may earn a priority tag in Ankara,” said the security official.
A senior procurement official confirmed that MEADS could help Turkey create meaningful air defense coverage.
“Particularly its phase-array radar that provides 360 degrees coverage looks appealing,” he said.
The official said that recently, top procurement officials “unofficially” discussed a possible acquisition with MEADS’ German partners.
The preliminary talks centered on MEADS’ technological features, another official said.
“The system may fit our requirements … in covering as large an area as possible with fewer systems,” he said.
An industry source said: “Clearly with the cancellation of T-LORAMIDS [the Chinese system selected in 2013] by Turkey, additional alternative systems are options. Germans are talking to Turkey about the benefits of MEADS, with further discussions planned. MEADS capabilities and an industrial cooperation model are a good fit for their desired path forward.”
A defense analyst said that if talks matured further, Turkey could be inclined to buy up to four systems.
The senior procurement official did not elaborate on the modality of a potential contract but also did not rule out the possibility of a direct, off-the-shelf purchase without international bidding.
“It is too early to talk about the modality,” he said.
Jen Judson contributed reporting.