ANKARA --- The Turkish government has opted to cancel its $3+ billion Turkish long-range air and missile defense systems (T-LORAMIDS) program more than eight years after officially launching the project on March 1, 2007.
The government will formalize this decision at the next meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee chaired by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The real power broker in Turkish governance, President Tayyip Erdogan, had reportedly called for the program to be scrapped at a meeting earlier in November.
The evolution of the T-LORAMIDS program began in the early 2000s as fears gathered over Iran's missile development projects and attempts to attain nuclear warhead breakout capability. Turkish officials began examining options for a long-range air- and missile-defense system that would provide protection for strategically crucial infrastructure against medium-range ballistic missiles.
By October 2005, the Turkish government had signed off on a proposal for the launching of an open competition to provide the T-LORAMIDS solution that would, in turn, involve domestic industrial spin-off benefits.
Funding approval for the billion-dollar project was granted by Turkey's treasury a year later.
The T-LORAMIDS competition was then launched on March 1, 2007, when the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) first issued Requests for Information (RFIs). At the time these entailed four systems, but under a fresh Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by the SSM in April 2009 the number of systems to be procured increased to twelve.
Following a four-year competition initially involving four bidders (the Russian bid involving Almaz-Antey's S-300 Favorit was the first to be eliminated from contention) Turkey made a surprise choice by selecting a Chinese offer over bids by Franco-Italian consortium Eurosam (offering the SAMP/T ASTER 30) and a Lockheed Martin-Raytheon offer of Patriot PAC-2s.
The Chinese offer of the HQ-9 (FD-2000) from China Precision Machinery Import Export Corp (CPMIEC) elicited immediate pushback from U.S and European NATO allies of Turkey, who feared integrating Chinese hardware and software into NATO's own Alliance-aligned air defense network.
As a result of external pressure from its U.S. and European allies and a desire to extract better terms from CPMIEC, Turkey opened parallel negotiations with Eurosam this summer. Frustrated by an inability to nail down an agreement with CPMIEC regarding joint production and - most crucially for Ankara - technology transfer, Turkey's willingness to go back to the second and third-place contenders was unsurprising.
Ultimately, however, the process became too dragged out, and nailing down the final details through negotiations too complex. Further, the foreign/diplomatic questions involved combined with a Turkish defense industrial indigenization push appears to have prompted the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to reconsider a large-scale project involving foreign-sourced solutions.
Going forward Turkey may look for a short-term bridge solution via a foreign vendor that would result in some level of local workshare and supplier technology-transfer. The long-term solution appears destined to be pursued via local means. Reports indicate that two state-owned firms - military electronics specialist Aselsan and chief supplier of missiles for the Turkish Land Forces Command, Roketsan - will be commissioned by the government to provide a future long-range air- and missile-defense system.