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Turkey signs air defense missile accord with France and Italy

Letter of intent paves way for Eurosam SAMP-T and Aster surface-to-air missile deal

Turkey signed a letter of intent with France and Italy on Wednesday, paving the way to a purchase of surface-to-air missile systems from the French-Italian Eurosam consortium.

The letter signed by the defence ministers of the three nations on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels allows them to “show their interest in cooperating in the domain of anti-aircraft defence and surface-to-air missiles,” and the MBDA- and Thales Group-owned Eurosam to “analyse and define the needs” of the Turkish military, a French source told AFP.

Turkish defence ministry sources told Reuters that Eurosam and Turkish companies will investigate a system based on the SAMP/T medium-range air defense system and Aster missiles, and determine the common needs of the three countries, implying some degree of technology transfer to Turkey.

Turkey caused alarm among NATO members when it made an advance payment in September for a purchase of Russian surface-to-air missile systems in a deal worth around $2.5 billion. In October, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey could cancel the deal for Russian S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems if Moscow refused technology transfer.

“That deal has not been consummated,” U.S. Air Force General Tod Walters, head of NATO Allied Air Command, told Reuters. There are no S-400s in Turkey as we speak.”

Walters said he would continue to press Turkish officials to procure weapons that are interoperable with NATO systems.

The Turkish government was in talks with Eurosam and Raytheon offered its Patriot missile defence system ahead of Turkey’s selection of the S-400.

Though the Eurosam deal is at an very early stage, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed it as positive cooperation between alliance members.

“We welcome always when NATO allies are working together to develop different capabilities,” Stoltenberg said. “This kind of operation is the best way to make sure we have the capabilities different nations need and it’s a good way also to make sure that when we have new capabilities they can be fully integrated into air defence systems.”

Eurosam air defence systems are already in service with the French, Italian and U.K. militaries among others. To intercept missiles fired from Syria towards Turkey, Italy previously deployed SAMP-T/Aster systems and the U.S. deployed Patriot systems.

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With reporting from AFP

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