[This post originally appeared at Asia Times Online on September 27, 2013,
under the title Turkey Goes for Chinese take-away defense. It can be reposted
if ATOl is credited and a link provided.]
On September 26, 2013, Turkey made the rather eyebrow-raising decision to put
its long range missile defense eggs in a Chinese basket, announcing it had
awarded a US$3 billion contract to the People's Republic of China for its
truck-mounted "shoot and scoot" FD-2000 system.
The Chinese FD-2000 is based on the Hong Qi missile, which has been around
since the 1990s. The FD-2000 is an export version of the HQ-9 that appeared in
2009 and is marketed as a next-generation improvement on the Russian S-300
system, but whose fire control radar looks more like the radar matching
US-based Raytheon's Patriot missile system (with the implication that the PRC
filched the technology, maybe with some help from Israel). 
Defense correspondent Wendell Minick relayed the description of the FD-2000
that China provided at a 2010 Asian arms show:
It can target cruise missiles (7-24 km), air-to-ground missiles (7-50
km), aircraft (7-125 km), precision-guided bombs and tactical ballistic
missiles (7-25 km). "FD-2000 is mainly provided for air force and air
defense force for asset air defense to protect core political, military and
economic targets," according to the brochure of China Precision Machinery
Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC), the manufacturer of the system. It
can also coordinate with other air defense systems to "form a multi-layer
air defense system for regional air defense." 
Turkey is procuring 12 of these systems (it had originally requested 20
Patriot systems when Syria heated up and got six for a year, since renewed).
The FD-2000 looks great on paper. However, it appears to be untested in combat
- and even the Patriot system is apparently not effective against cruise
missiles, implying that the Chinese system isn't going to do any better.
Political issues aside - and there were a lot of political issues - the
deciding factor for Turkey was probably low price, and China's willingness to
do co-production and technology transfer.
Maybe the Chinese government are eager to put the FD-2000 in some foreign hot
spot in the hopes of getting some real, battlefield data and make some
upgrades before the cruise missiles start flying toward Beijing. 
Press reports from June already implied that Turkey was leaning toward the
Chinese system. However, Turkey's announcement in the midst of the Syrian
chemical weapons negotiations still looks like a slap at the United States,
which makes the Patriot missile system, and the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, which is now manning six Patriot batteries at present installed
in Turkey. 
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan certainly is feeling piqued at the US-led
detour into chemical weapon destruction in Syria, instead of support for the
quick regime collapse that he has been craving ever since he made the
precipitous and rather premature decision to call for the fall of Bashar al-Assad
in the summer of 2011.
Turkey's aggressive regime-change posture has always carried with it the risk
of Syrian chemical weapon retaliation, as a Xinhua piece pointed out in early
Turkey's army build up on its Syrian border continued, with some 400
chemical, biological and nuclear units arriving in the region as a measure
against a possible chemical threat.
While some analysts cited NATO anti-missile defense systems deployed in
Turkey, others doubted their effectiveness."The citizens in the southern
border have not been given adequate equipment to protect themselves,
especially from chemical attacks," said Turkish academic Soli Ozel. "Let's
say that one battery misses one missile ... The smart missile may not be so
Suspicion of the Patriot's missile-busting awesomeness seems to be endemic
Sait Yilmaz, an expert, told Turkish daily Today's Zaman that Patriots -
the anti-ballistic missiles provided by NATO - would not be effective
against short-distance missiles. He said that if Syria fired a large number
of missiles on Turkish targets at such a short distance, most would go
The general consensus seems to be that if Syria unleashed a barrage of
short-range missiles the Patriot missiles would not do a sensational job;
indeed, the suspicion is that the six batteries are in Turkey merely as a
symbolic show of NATO support for Turkey. Presumably, the protection provided
by the FD-2000 would also be less than 100%. Syria, however, is something of a
sideshow in Turkey's missile defense game.
Turkey's decision to procure these missile defense assets goes back to 2011
and was part of Turkey's ambiguous dance with the United States, NATO, and
Iran and the threat of Iran's long range missiles.
In 2011, the Obama administration announced that Turkey's participation in the
US/NATO integrated ballistic missile defense system would be limited to
hosting a radar station at Malatya - without any NATO provided missile defense.
Unsurprisingly, Iran announced that a NATO radar station in Turkey would have
a bull's eye painted on it and Turkey was left to its own devices to deal with
the Iranian threat. Therefore, the Turkish government embarked on its
procurement odyssey seeking a defense against long range (ie Iranian)
missiles, which ended with the announcement of the purchase of the FD-2000.
It can be assumed that Turkey, eager to maintain its regional clout as an
independent security actor, made the conscious decision to stick a finger in
Iran's eye by siding with the US and NATO on the radar (while stipulating that
Iran must never be formally identified as the radar's target), and to try to
manage Iran's extreme displeasure by deploying a more Turkish, non-NATO,
presumably less confrontationally managed missile defense system. 
Performance questions aside, the Syrian trauma has reinforced Turkey's desire
for a non-NATO missile defense system. As an analysis on the Carnegie Europe
website pointed out, Turkey's feelings of being slighted by the US and NATO on
Syria are no accident and translate rather directly into an independent
In a little-known episode of NATO history, the only Article 5 [collective
self defense] crisis-management exercise ever conducted by the organization
ended in disagreement. Coincidentally, the scenario for the exercise, held
in 2002, was designed to simulate an Article 5 response to a chemical
weapons attack by Amberland, a hypothetical southern neighbor of Turkey.
Amberland was known to have several Scud missiles, tipped with biological
and chemical warheads, aimed at Turkey. During the seven-day exercise, the
United States and Turkey reportedly took a more hardline stance in support
of preemptive strikes, while Germany, France, and Spain preferred to defuse
the crisis through more political means.
The exercise apparently ended with NATO members disagreeing about the
prospective NATO response before any attack was carried out or Article 5 was
officially invoked. 
As Turkey sees it, in other words, maybe the danger on Iran is that NATO
will go too far and embroil Turkey in a regional confrontation it does not
desire; on Syria, the reality is that NATO doesn't go far enough, and is
leaving Turkey vulnerable to Syrian retaliation for Erdogan's perilous
overreach on Syrian regime change.
Even though the FD-2000 is not well-suited to coping with a Syrian short range
missile threat, the missile defense batteries could also assist in enforcing a
no-fly zone at the Syrian-Turkish border, something that NATO has specifically
ruled out for its Patriot batteries in Turkey (which are for the most part
safely out of range of the Syrian border and whose main purpose seems to be
protecting NATO and US military installations) without an enabling UN
resolution or suitable coalition.
Turkey would probably be happy to have this independent capability in its
security/Syria destabilization portfolio though, at a cost of hundreds of
thousands of dollars per pop, it will probably think twice about a shooting
spree of FD-2000 missiles at Syrian planes. Erdogan is also unhappy with
Russia's frontline support of the Syrian regime militarily as well as
diplomatically, especially compared with Chinese discretion, and that's
probably why he didn't choose the S-300 option.
Iran, which has experienced the headaches of politicized supply (or, to be
more accurate, non-supply) of its S-300 missile defense system by Russia, is
also reportedly considering the FD-2000 (its manufacturer, CPMIEC, was
sanctioned by the United States for unspecified Iran-related transgressions
presumably relating to Chinese willingness to transfer missile technology) ...
but maybe Iran is thinking long and hard about the rumor that the fire control
radar technology passed through Israel's hands on its way to China.
Apparently a Western marketing point steering Turkey away from Russian or
Chinese systems was the argument that inoperability with NATO equipment would
be a problem and the missile defense batteries would be sitting there without
vital linkages to NATO theater-scale radar and missile-killing capabilities
(though Greece, with an inventory of Russian S-300s, somehow managed to make
Well, maybe that's the point. Erdogan is implying he doesn't want to rely on
the United States or NATO - which might demand Turkey's diplomatic and
security subservience and NATO control over Turkish missile defense assets -
to keep his missile defense system working, while exposing both missile sites
and the radar facility to Iranian NATO-related wrath.
Perhaps Erdogan has abandoned his dreams of full partnership with NATO and the
European Union, and doesn't see Turkey as Europe's front line state in the
Middle East. He wants his own, independent missile defense capability to
protect distinctly Turkish targets and manage his relationships with Iran and
Syria on a more bilateral basis.
And as far as the People's Republic of China is concerned, it can mollify Iran
with the observation that China, by stepping up and providing the system in
place of Raytheon or a French/Italian consortium, was preventing the full
integration of Turkey into the NATO missile defense bloc.
In which case, Turkey's name on the NATO membership rolls should include an
asterisk denoting its special status. Or maybe it should be a red star.