ANKARA — Turkey has urged bidders in a multibillion dollar contract for the construction of its first long-range air and anti-missile defense system to agree on a sixth extension of the deadline to renew offers, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said Dec. 21.

"We have requested a new extension from the second and third best bidders," Yilmaz told reporters. "We have asked them to agree on a new extension of the deadline."

In September 2013 Turkey selected China Precision Machinery Import Export Corp (CPMIEC) to build its air defense system and contract negotiations with this company have been ongoing since then. CPMIEC offered a $3.44 billion solution.

But talks with CPMIEC, under increasing pressure from Turkey's western allies that a Chinese-made system could not be made interoperable with NATO assets, have staggered since then.

Turkey this summer opened parallel talks with the second-comer, the European consortium Eurosam, maker of the Aster-30. A consortium of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, maker of the Patriot system, came third after Eurosam.

Minister Yilmaz's remarks meant that the Turkish government asked Eurosam and Raytheon/Lockheed Martin to agree to a sixth extension. Since September 2013, Turkey extended the deadline for these two companies to renew their proposals five times. The latest deadline was Dec. 31.

"We keep on talking to the Chinese company," Yilmaz said. "After we extend the deadline once again, the contract will be negotiated at the January meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee." The Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, is the ultimate decision maker in major procurement programs.

Yilmaz listed Turkey's priorities in the air defense program (by ranking) as: 1- Technology transfer, 2- Co-production that ensures technology, 3- Quickest delivery, and 4- "Reasonable" price.

The Turkish program, T-LORAMIDS, consists of radar, launcher and interceptor missiles. It has been designed to counter enemy aircraft and missiles. Turkey has no long-range air defense systems.

About half of Turkey's network-based air defense picture has been paid for by NATO. The country is part of NATO's Air Defense Ground Environment. Without NATO's consent, it will be impossible for Turkey to make the planned Chinese system operable with these assets, some analysts say.

NATO and US officials have said any Chinese-built system could not be integrated with Turkey's joint air defense assets with NATO and the United States. They also have warned that any Turkish company that acts as local sub-contractor in the program would face serious US sanctions because CPMIEC has been sanctioned under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

Email: bbekdil@defensenews.com.

Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.

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