BEIJING — From the moment Turkey announced plans two years ago to acquire a long-range missile defense system, the multibillion-dollar contract from a key NATO member appeared to be an American company’s to lose.
Members of Aviation Industry Corporation of China displayed a model of the JF-17 jet at an exposition in Beijing last month.
For years, Turkey’s military had relied on NATO-supplied Patriot missiles, built by the American companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, to defend its skies, and the system was fully compatible with the air-defense platforms operated by other members of the alliance.
There were other contenders for the deal, of course. Rival manufacturers in Russia and Europe made bids. Turkey rejected those — but not in favor of the American companies. Its selection last month of a little-known Chinese defense company, China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp oration, stunned the military-industrial establishment in Washington and Brussels.
The sale was especially unusual because the Chinese missile defense system, known as the HQ-9, would be difficult to integrate with existing NATO equipment. China Precision is also subject to sanctions from the United States for selling technologies that the United States says could help Iran, Syria and North Korea develop unconventional weapons. A State Department spokeswoman said this month that American officials had expressed to the Turkish government “serious concerns” about the deal, which has not yet been signed.
Industry executives and arms-sales analysts say the Chinese probably beat out their more established rivals by significantly undercutting them on price, offering their system at $3 billion. Nonetheless, Turkey’s selection of a Chinese state-owned manufacturer is a breakthrough for China, a nation that has set its sights on moving up the value chain in arms technology and establishing itself as a credible competitor in the global weapons market. Continue reading