Turkey: Italian-French consortium talks on air defense systems
Ankara - Cooperation between European manufacturer of anti-air missiles Eurosam and Turkish defense organizations will provide technology transfer to Turkey and bring the opportunity of export to third party markets, Ambassador of Italy to Ankara Luigi Mattiolo told Hurriyet Daily News, as the two sides advance talks on the Turkish procurement of the SAMP-T missile system. "One area Turkey and Italy want to develop economic relations is the defense industry, which is a field that needs trust on the ground in order to cooperate. The added value is huge. The common partnership in NATO should be the main trigger for this kind of cooperation," Mattiolo said in an interview with the Hurriyet Daily News over the weekend. The deployment of the Italian air defense system in Kahramanmara as part of a NATO mission to augment Turkey's anti-ballistic defense against potential threats from Syria demonstrates this perspective, he said. "We are engaged with our French partners in a consortium with Eurosam, which has begun the study of a possible new generation of anti-missile defense systems with Turkish companies, which would obviously be by definition fully NATO interoperable," the ambassador said.
Ankara had made an initial deal with the French-Italian consortium on July 14, 2017 to develop Turkey's national defense systems and had signed an agreement early 2018 for an 18-month long study to determine the needs and priorities for the potential joint production of an anti-ballistic missile system. The proposed system will be a more developed version of the Eurosam's current SAMP-T air defense systems. A written statement issued by Turkey's Undersecreteriat for Defense Industries on June 3 informed that the talks between the two sides continued with the participation of high-level officials from the two sides on May 30 in Ankara. The works are planned to be finalized at the end of 2019, it said.
Talks with the Italian-French consortium advance at a moment when Turkey is under fierce pressure from the United States and other NATO countries because of its plans to procure Russia's sophisticated S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems. A bill legislated in the U.S. Congress last year imposes sanctions on countries and companies purchasing defense equipment from Russian suppliers. Some NATO officials recall that the Russian systems will never be interoperable with NATO defense architecture while expressing concerns that the deployment of these systems on NATO soil would create security concerns for the alliance as a whole.
Turkey blames the U.S. for not providing technology transfer in its earlier attempts to purchase the U.S. made Patriot missiles, therefore pushing its NATO ally to seek alternative systems from other countries. The most important advantage of the process with the Italian-French consortium is the fact that this is a NATO interoperable system and that the supplier offers technology transfer.
"Italian main industries of this sector will be fully involved in this project, together with industries from Turkey, Roketsan and Aselsan," said Mattiolo, also noting that the cooperation would provide technology transfer to Turkey. "There is a technology transfer. There is a development of new technology products together," he said. "The Italian government and Italian businessmen understand that if we want to enhance and develop economic relations with Turkey, we need to go far beyond the logic of a provider and customer. This [Turkey] is not a country who needs a sort of fully precooked project," said the ambassador. These products could also be also sold to third markets, Mattiolo said. "The point is to use the most advanced technologies at the disposal of foreign countries like Italy and to develop a joint project to develop new products together with the use of Turkish engineering and designing capability," the ambassador said.
A product intended originally for the Turkish market "might easily also be sold to third countries, where Italy or Turkey or both sometimes might have better access," Italian ambassador said. The products could be sold to the Caucasus, Asia, or NATO markets, the ambassador added. After the cancellation of the original tender Turkey had launched earlier, on which Turkeyhad decided on a Chinese bidder but had failed to reach an agreement, the ambassador said the three NATO countriesItaly, Turkey and Francecould develop a system together that would be in the interest of everyone. "This is typical mutual interest. I am happy that as we have hoped, what prevailed is awareness about the need to develop a system that can be fully integrated with NATO systems. If you are interoperable, you can have all the strength of the alliance with you when it comes to the need for defense," he said.
The initial deal that exhibits Turkey's intention to work with Eurosam, the producer of SAMP-T and Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAM) systems, was signed on July 14, 2017. As the first step, the Franco-Italian Eurosam consortium and Turkish companies will look into a system based on the SAMP-T missile system produced by Eurosam and determine the common needs of the three countries.