FARNBOROUGH, England —Whether Turkey plays ball with the United States and opts for Patriot missiles over a Russian alternative will be decided by politics, not capability requirements, said Raytheon’s missile defense chief.
Capturing news at the Farnborough Airshow Monday was the statement made by Tina Kaidanow, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, that U.S. officials were “trying to give the Turks an understanding of what we can do with respect to Patriot.”
This comes less than a week after Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu defended his government’s choice to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense system during an event on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Brussels, stating he “wanted to buy from the U.S. for the last 10 years,” but it didn’t work, and that in the end, Russia offered the best proposal.
“It’s all political,” said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Integrated Defense System when asked whether Turkey had passed over the system previously because of any gap in capability. “Patriot is the most combat proven integrated air and missile defense system in the world.[It’s had] more than 300 ground tests; more than 1,000 combat engagements, more than 100 ballistic missile engagements. There’s no doubt about the capability, from Turkey’s perspective either. It comes down to a political decision.”
Raytheon has no role in efforts by the Pentagon to persuade Turkey to buy the Partriot, Kremer added, calling it entirely “government-to-government."
Of course, Turkey is in fact quite familiar with the Patriot system. Various NATO allies had deployed the Patriots in Turkey for a number of years to help the Turkish better counter any potential missile threat from Syria. But many of those systems have gradually been pulled out, as part of a planned rotational scheme with other nations.
During the Brussels panel, Çavuşoğlu criticized Germany for withdrawing the system, noting that Italy prolonged its missile-defense commitment “like real allies.”
NATO officials have warned of “necessary consequences” for Turkey should the alliance member purchase the Russian air defense system. The country would have to operate the S-400 on a standalone basis because the system cannot be made interoperable with NATO and U.S. assets deployed in Turkish territory, and the buy could affect the Turkey’s acquisition or operation of the F-35.
Jill Aitoro is editor of Defense News. She is also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brings over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.