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Turkey May Abandon Controversial Air Defense Program

Turkey's protracted shopping for a long-range air defense system has been a sort of geopolitical bellwether for the country: in addition to considering systems from NATO allies U.S. and Italy, Ankara has been looking at Russian and Chinese options. If it goes for the latter, NATO has reportedly promised to cut Turkey out of its air defense monitoring system. But now it looks like Turkey may be abandoning the purchase altogether, reports Defense News:

Turkey's highest defense body might decide to indefinitely postpone the country's $4 billion air defense program, effectively killing it, sources and observers said.

In addition to analysts' criticism that the long-range air and missile defense system is too expensive, other recent developments have raised questions about the project.

This month, for example, MBDA of Italy, one arm of bidder Eurosam, arranged a tour for several Turkish journalists to observe firing tests at two Italian land and naval installations. Turkish defense authorities at the last minute declined to permit reporters to visit the Italian sites, and MBDA had to cancel the tour.

This led to speculation that the program was going to be canceled or indefinitely postponed.

(Not really germane to the main point, but it's remarkable that the Turkish government could forbid reporters from visiting Italy to see an Italian company exhibition.)

The problem is that Turkey may not need such a system:

Most analysts say that the system's $4 billion cost is almost prohibitive; that it would be useless against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party, which fights only with light weapons; and that it would take too long to complete to be of use against Syria.

It's not clear why those factors may have come to light only now, after years of considering this, and it could be just a feint in what seems to be an elaborate bargaining process. The next meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee next meets in December or January, Defense News reports, and could either pick a winner then or defer the program.

Turkey May Abandon Controversial Air Defense Program

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