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Saturday, December 11, 2010

MBDA relies on hi-tech transfer to win Turkish defense deal

Competing with rivals from the United States, Russia and China for Turkey's multibillion-dollar national air defense system contract, the mainly Italian-French missile maker Eurosam, maker of the SAMP/T, wants to jointly develop and manufacture the defensive weapon system with Turkish companies

MBDA's chief executive Antonid Perfetti (2nd L) is seen in this November photo at a press conference in Ankara as Finmeccanica, 25 percent owner of MBDA, opens an office in Ankara. DHA ploto

Representatives of European missile maker Eurosam said they are relying on the consortium's ability to offer high technology transfer rates and a joint development capability with Ankara to win a major Turkish air defense contract.

"There is a genuine and sincere friendship between Italy and Turkey. We are offering a great rate of technology transfer, we can jointly design systems, we can develop systems and we can jointly export them," said Michele Lastella, head of communications at the Italy branch of MBDA, an Italian member company of the Eurosam consortium, during a briefing in Rome late last week.

"We are ready to meet the customer's requirements at the most advanced level. If the others cannot do this, it is not our matter," said Sergio Cavicchi, vice president and exports and sales director at MBDA.

Turkey is currently considering bids for the construction of a number of additions to its national defense cache. Many analysts suggest the United States and European bids for the contract have the highest chances of winning the contract, while Russian and Chinese alternatives are lagging mainly because of their products' non-compliance with NATO systems.

Among bids being considered by the Turkish defense procurement agency are the Eurosam developed Aster 30 SAMP/T, a land-based air defense system effective against high-speed threats such as tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, combat aircraft and unmanned combat vehicles.

Eurosam is competing with the U.S. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin partnership’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3; Russia’s Rosoboronexport who are touting their S300, and; China’s Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp’s offer of its HQ-9. Turkey is expected to pick the winner of the multibillion-dollar contract late next year.


"We are wondering to what degree the Russian and Chinese options could be integrated into the NATO system," said Giovanni Uccella, Turkey representative of Finmeccanica, one of the parent companies of MBDA, at a briefing in Rome.

"When it comes to technology transfer, our pledges don't stay as words, but come true," Antonio Perfetti, president of Eurosam and general manager of MBDA Italy, said at a recent briefing in Sabaudia, Italy.

Eurosam's SAMP/T is the most cutting-edge long-range and medium-altitude air and ballistic missile defense systems in the world. It was successfully tested against an incoming ballistic missile in France in October. The Italian and French armies have started using the SAMP/T and the system's naval version is being used by Italy, France and Britain.

"The [most cutting-edge system] should be selected," Uccella said, adding that the PAC-3 has been around for many years.

Eurosam is a joint venture between MBDA, Europe’s largest missile maker, and French electronic company Thales. Finmeccanica owns 25 percent of MBDA, while EADS, the European giant, and Britain’s BAE Systems each own 37.5 percent.

Government lobbying

The U.S. and European contenders are also stepping up competition at the government level in an effort to win the large-scale Turkish contract.

According to the recent release of highly classified U.S. diplomatic correspondences by WikiLeaks, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates strongly lobbied on behalf of the U.S. bid at meetings with Turkish counterparts. "Nothing can compete with the PAC-3 when it comes to capabilities," Gates was quoted as saying in a secret cable sent to Washington on Feb. 16. 2010, by then U.S. ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey.

Brigadier Gen. Francesco Diella, commander of Italy's Air Defense Artillery Command in Sabaudia, said his unit was content with the performance of the SAMP/T system. "We will be able to counter the menaces of the future with this system. Delivered last year, the systems will gain full effectiveness and efficiency in 2011," he told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

The SAMP/T is mobile, has all-azimuth defense, a short reaction time, simultaneous multiple engagement capability, anti-aircraft and anti-missile capabilities and has full autonomy and interoperability with other NATO systems, said Angelo Scozzari, a top engineer with MBDA.

A typical SAMP/T battery includes a command and control vehicle, an Arabel X-band multi-function radar and up to six launch vehicles, each with eight missiles and a store of reload missiles. The system fires Aster 30 interceptor missiles to a range of 120 kilometers.

Eurosam has signed a framework cooperation agreement with Turkish military electronics group Aselsam, missile manufacturer Roketsan, systems integrator Ayesas, software builder Havelsan and vehicle manufacturer BMC to develop new missile technology.

The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey's defense procurement agency, is retaining 50 percent of the work share in Turkey's national air defense system program for Turkish groups. The framework agreements explain the role the five Turkish companies would play in the project in the event Eurosam wins the contract.

MBDA officials voiced willingness to jointly manufacture Otomat and Marte anti-ship missiles with Turkey

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