The Defence Ministers of France, Italy and Turkey signed an intergovernmental agreement on 8 November at NATO Headquarters in Brussels to strengthen their cooperation on air defence.
This trilateral agreement will lead to the launch of a two-year feasibility study so that the parties can agree on the requirements and priorities for the possible joint development of an air defence system based on the SAMP/T designed by Eurosam, an economic interest group held equally by MBDA and Thales.
This agreement is in line with the Heads of Agreement signed in July by Eurosam and Turkish manufacturers Roketsan and Aselsan.
While these agreements currently do not include the procurement of any particular air defence system, they nonetheless demonstrate Ankara’s growing interest in further cooperation with the European missile manufacturer. For the time being, most of the Turkish anti-aircraft umbrella is provided by Patriot batteries deployed in turn by NATO allies. That being said, the two Spanish batteries currently deployed on İncirlik base cannot cover the southern and eastern borders of Turkey.
Ankara is therefore looking for a more effective air defence system. Called T-LORAMIDS, this procurement programme has already provided more than one surprise since September 2013 and the selection of 12 FD-2000 ground-to-air missile firing units made by CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery and Export Corp.) Ankara finally gave up the contract, which had drawn the wrath of Washington, pleading China’s slowness in providing all the technologies.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan then turned to Moscow to buy S-400 air defence systems for an estimated $2bn. That choice also drew the anger of his NATO allies but Ankara justified the procurement by the need to protect itself quickly. The first S-400 systems will be delivered from 2019, while it would take between eight to 10 years to develop an equivalent system with the help of Eurosam.
To replace its ageing Hawk and Crotale systems France has acquired 10 SAMP/Ts based on Thales’s Arabel phased array radar, capable of detecting up to 100 targets simultaneously. Its missile, the Aster 30 block 1, can reach a target beyond 100 km and at a speed of 5,500 kmh. The SAMP/T can operate in full autonomy or in coordination with other NATO systems through its link 16.