WASHINGTON Oct 28 Turkey has asked the United
States to extend the pricing on Raytheon Co's Patriot
missile defense system proposal, two sources familiar with the
discussions told Reuters on Monday, a sign that Ankara is
keeping its options open in case its talks with the preferred
Chinese supplier fall through.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan last week said Ankara
would be open to new offers if its talks about co-producing a
long-range air and missile defense system with China Precision
Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC) fail.
Turkey's decision to choose a $3.4 billion Chinese offer
over rival bids from Russian, U.S. and European firms has raised
concern among Turkey's Western allies.
The sources familiar with the U.S. proposal to supply a
Raytheon-built Patriot missile defense system said Turkish
officials had requested an extension of the pricing included in
the bid while their talks continued with China.
"It's clear that they are trying to hedge their bets," said
one of the sources, who was not authorized to speak publicly. It
was not immediately clear how long of an extension was
Turkey announced in September it had chosen China's FD-2000
missile defense system over rival systems from Franco/Italian
Eurosam SAMP/T and Raytheon. It said CPMIEC offered the most
competitive terms and would allow co-production in Turkey.
The U.S. ambassador to Turkey said on Thursday that
Washington was concerned that the deal with the Chinese firm
could undermine allied air defenses and had begun "expert" talks
with Ankara to assess the potential impact.
CPMIEC is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran,
North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.
NATO is also worried about Turkey buying a system not
compatible with those of other member states, potentially
undermining a core principle of the 28-nation alliance.
The sources said Turkey's missile defense deal could also
affect its plans to buy radar-evading F-35 fighter jets built by
Lockheed Martin Corp, which also builds the PAC-3
missiles used by the Patriot missile defense system.
"Do you really want a Chinese radar painting the F-35s every
time they fly in or out of a Turkish base?" said one of the
Turkey's Defense Industry Executive Committee had been
expected to approve an initial order of two jets in December or
January, the first of 100 F-35s it plans to buy in coming years
to replace its aging fleet of F-4 Phantoms and early F-16s,
according to a third source familiar with the F-35 program.
But that order could now be delayed until concerns about the
missile defense system procurement had been addressed, said one
of the sources familiar with the U.S.-Turkish discussions.
Officials at Raytheon and Lockheed declined comment.
No comment was immediately available from the U.S. Defense
Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees major foreign arms
Turkish officials said only that discussions with the
Chinese firm were continuing.
"As the final decision has not been taken, the other firms
on the list always have the possibility to improve their bids,"
a senior Turkish official told Reuters.
"But rather than pricing, joint production in Turkey is more
important," the source said, adding it would depend on the
outcome of negotiations with the Chinese before Turkey decided
whether or not to go back to other bidders.
Raytheon last week said it was still ready to sell its
Patriot system to Turkey if Ankara changed its mind.
Sources familiar with the U.S. proposal said it also
included terms that would allow co-production in Turkey.
Raytheon already has supplier agreements with several
Turkish firms including Aselsan, which makes antenna equipment
for the Patriot system, and Roketsan, which builds missile