PARIS — Eurosam and Turkish firms Aselsan and Roketsan have signed a contract with Turkey to study the possibility of producing a long-range missile.
“Scheduled to last 18 months, this definition study aims at preparing the development and production contract for the future system meeting the operational requirements of the Turkish Air Force,” MBDA and Thales said in a statement through their missile-based joint venture Eurosam.
Eurosam declined to comment on the value of the contract, signed Jan. 5 by Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Paris.
The study will define Turkish requirements and architecture of the weapon system, which will be based on the Aster Block 1 New Technology missile and the accompanying future radar. If all goes well, the study will lead to a development and production contract for Turkey.
The study is expected to lead to cooperation between France, Italy and Turkey over a Turkish long-range air and missile defense program, with a weapon delivered around 2025, Eurosam said. The missile is intended to hit ballistic and cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, and UAVs.
The planned weapon is intended to meet the partner nations’ “basic operational needs” while guaranteeing Turkey “full employment autonomy” and “sovereign choice of integration within NATO,” the joint venture said. The work is expected to support Turkey’s domestic programs and open up export prospects among France, Italy and Turkey.
In a news release, Eurosam said: “The three-country missile programme is scheduled to be ready by the middle of the next decade and aims to defend against threats from stealth aircraft, drones and missiles. The joint development activity is expected to support Turkey’s indigenous air and missile development programme in addition to opening up prospects for exports and longer-term co-operation of Turkey, Italy and France.”
A senior Turkish procurement official said the idea behind the contract ”is to see what we can technologically do with our French and Italian partners in this field … and then to see if we can turn the opportunity into a lucrative co-production venture aiming at both meeting future requirements in all three countries and exporting to allies.”
Turkey is planning a new command structure as the Russian S-400 and the European-Turkish systems become operational. Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said Jan. 9 that a new “design” [of command, such as a unit in charge of air defense systems] would be considered as soon as these new systems have reached delivery stage.“
The Eurosam deal is Turkey’s third selection of a foreign technology supplier to build a long-range air and anti-missile defense architecture.
Turkey has long been seen as a potential partner for the Aster missile.
France and Italy are working on development of the MBDA Aster Block 1 NT missile, seeking to extend the range of the Aster 30 and its ability to hit incoming ballistic missiles and other threats.
The NT upgrade would allow the Aster 30 to hit enemy missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers. The Block 1 model held by French and Italian forces can intercept incoming missiles with a range of 600 kilometers, such as the Scud B.
An upgraded version is on the road map for building an Aster Block 2, which would intercept weapons that have a range of 3,000 kilometers.
MBDA is a joint venture between Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo. Aselsan specializes in defense electronics, while Roketsan builds rockets and missiles.
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.