Turkey’s Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar today hinted at a possible purchase of air defense systems (ADS) from France and Italy.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Akar stated Turkey is holding talks to buy missile systems that are of French or Italian build. “If conditions are met, Turkey can also buy Patriots from the U.S.,” he added.
The equipment Turkey is showing interest in, could be the SAMP-T air defense system, which is built by EUROSAM (jointly owned by MBDA and Thales). Notably, Ankara made an initial deal with the French-Italian consortium in July 2017 to develop Turkey’s national defense system based on the SAMP-T.
The U.S.-Turkey tensions skyrocketed after the latter bought the S-400 systems from Russia for $2.5 billion in September 2017. Washington’s attempts to persuade Ankara to ditch the systems went in vain. Soon after Russia began shipping the S-400s to Turkey in July 2019, the U.S. struck off Turkey’s name from the list of F-35 program partners. Washington has argued that the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and is incompatible with NATO systems.
A final agreement with EUROSAM was signed in early 2018 for an 18-month study to determine joint production of an anti-ballistic missile system. The proposed system will be an advanced version of the SAMP-T. The European deal was seen as a counter-balance to keep its European NATO partners in good humour after it soured relations with NATO’s supreme power, the United States, over the S-400 deal.
Akar further stated the S-400 ADS will be deployed independently and not be integrated with NATO systems. It will be used as an independent system just like S-300s some NATO members use. He added that all missile systems include their own test and system control.
Purchase of the S-400s was a necessity for Turkey and it will not distance Turkey from NATO, Akar stressed.
Turkey has repeatedly pointed it began seeking ADS manufactured by other countries after the U.S. refused to sell Patriots. It chose Russian systems because Moscow offered a better deal by including technology transfer. Ankara has also proposed setting up a commission to clarify any technical issues.
On October 16, Turkey conducted the first test of its S-400 at Sinop range, irking the U.S. On Wednesday, U.S.’ NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison said: “We, along with our all NATO allies, did whatever it takes to make Turkey give up buying missile defense system from Russia, which we recognize as an enemy. Buying a missile defense system from Russia and placing it in our NATO alliance ... this is a redline. No doubt about it.”
SAMP/T Air Defense System
The SAMP/T ADS is a ground-based, road-mobile, Medium-Range air and missile defense system that utilizes Arabel Radar. Transport vehicle is Renault KERAX 8x4 truck. The ADS has 4 launchers. Interceptors are Aster 15 (range: 30km) and Aster 30 (range: 120km).
The missiles can strike combat aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles. The ADS is capable of launching Salvo fire and its radar is capable of tracking up to 100 targets simultaneously.
The SAMP/T ADS is presently operational in France, Italy, Singapore and Azerbaijan.