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Turkey Exploring Franco-Italian Air Defense System Purchase

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan explored the possibility of purchasing the Franco-Italian Aster SAMP/T air defense system during his visit to Brussels for the NATO summit last week, Daily Sabah reported.

The Istanbul-based news outlet cited the president as saying that he spoke with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi about the subject at the meeting.

The outlet quoted Draghi as saying that the three countries have “decided to reactivate one of the cooperation platforms created over the years and then interrupted.”

He added that a meeting would soon take place between the countries to discuss the topic.

Previous Turkish-Eurosam Venture 

The Aster is manufactured by Eurosam, a consortium of MBDA France, MBDA Italy, and the French Thales Group.

In service with the French and Italian militaries, the system is designed to intercept air targets at over 100 kilometers (62 miles).

In 2018, Turkish defense firms Aselsan and Roketsan signed an 18-month “project definition study contract” with Eurosam to develop “a state-of-the-art military capability designed to counter the most challenging threats (stealth aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles),” Aviation International News reported.

Turkey-France Fallout

Eurosam was hoping to include the Turkish firms in the possible mid-life upgrade of the Aster, expected to achieve initial operating capability around 2024. 

The involvement would have also helped Turkey’s “indigenous air and missile development program,” the outlet added, quoting the European consortium.

However, the deal fell through “due to France’s political stance,” Daily Sabah wrote, citing Turkish defense officials.

The countries have had many differences over the years on a range of issues, including energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Libyan civil war, and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

US Tried to Sell Patriot to Turkey 

Prior to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system, the US and NATO tried to sell Turkey the Aster and the Patriot air defense systems.

“We have also tried to find alternative solutions,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“So far, we have not succeeded in that but we will continue, and we also work on these issues as an alliance.” 

Turkey’s Refusal

According to Eurasian Times, Turkey refused the American Patriot as the US was unwilling to share the system’s “sensitive” missile technology or produce the system jointly.

Erdogan, meanwhile, said that “positive talks” with the US would result in the purchase of new F-16 fighters and modernization kits from Washington. 

He also dismissed reports that the US had informally asked Turkey about the possibility of giving its S-400 air defense systems to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from the Russian air attacks.

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