ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is closer to agreeing to host a special X-band radar, a crucial part of a planned NATO system to counter potential ballistic missiles from rogue states, Turkish and Western officials said.
A round of talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her team and Turkish counterparts took place in Istanbul in July on the sidelines of a Libya-related gathering of Western powers. More talks will follow, both sides said.
“In light of developments in Syria and Libya in recent months, Turkey has come closer to accept a need for a strong and collective NATO missile defense system,” one Western diplomat said. “As a result, it also has come closer to agreeing to the deployment in Turkish territory of an X-band radar.”
The diplomat was referring to the civil war in Libya, where NATO and Western powers have sided with the opposition, and increasing attacks on opposition groups in Syria by troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Under a NATO plan approved during a November summit in Lisbon, Portugal, the alliance will create a collective missile defense system to defend against potential attacks from so-called rogue countries. Turkey agreed to the plan only after the alliance accepted a Turkish request that neither Iran nor other countries would be specifically mentioned as potential threats.
NATO now seeks to deploy an X-band radar in Turkey for early detection of missiles launched from the region. Ideally, U.S.-made Standard Missile (SM)-3 interceptors — based on U.S. Navy Aegis destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and probably on land in Romania — would then be fired to hit the incoming missile midflight.
“It’s correct to say that at this point, we are closer to agreeing to the NATO radar,” a Turkish security official said.
“[U.S. President Barack] Obama would want to see an emerging NATO plan on the whole plan by the end of this year,” the Western diplomat said. “A deal with Turkey is not ready at this point, but we’re approaching it, hopefully before that deadline.”
Turkey has a national program, called T-Loramids, to build long-range air and missile defense systems, and this will be independent of the NATO missile shield. But because both systems are, by nature, anti-ballistic missile schemes and both are supposed to protect Turkish soil, they will have to be integrated in some way.
The U.S. partnership of missile maker Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., and Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense company, is competing for the Turkish contest with Patriot air and missile defense systems. The systems fire Lockheed’s Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 and Raytheon’s GEM-T anti-air missiles.
Other competitors are the Italian-French company Eurosam, proposing its SAMP/T Aster 30; Russia’s Rosoboronexport, with the S300; and China’s Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp., offering its HQ-9.
In the latest development, Turkish defense companies could receive work worth more than $2 billion if the Raytheon team wins the competition, Mike Boots, Turkey Patriot program manager at Raytheon, said in early June.
Turkey expects to select a program winner at the end of this year or in early 2012.
T-Loramids is not a commercial tender; instead, Ankara is holding rival government-to-government talks with the United States, Italy, Russia and China. Turkey’s national air defense systems are designed against both ballistic missiles and aircraft.
One potential problem between Turkey and NATO is the participation in the competition of China and Russia, non-NATO nations whose systems are not compatible with the alliance’s systems and procedures.
Some Turkish officials suggested that Ankara is seeking Western financial backing for a second set of Patriot-related defense systems accompanying NATO’s X-band radar, but the Western diplomat ruled out such help.
“The radar does not need this special help for protection. And also, national air defense programs are related only to individual member states,” the diplomat said.