Turkey reveals plans for Space Command

Ankara, Turkey – Turkish Air Force, country’s top scientific and technological research organization, dubbed TUBITAK and a number of industry participants are collaborating for the development of an integrated command and control center exclusively for Turkey’s upcoming space projects, officials familiar with the program told TR Defence. The new center’s exact location has not yet been disclosed but Ankara, the nation’s capital, is on top of a very short list of candidates.

It will eventually host over 180 personnel around the clock, oversee all of Turkey’s orbital operations and will also act as a mission control center as part of Turkey’s ambitious satellite launcher project spearheaded by missile manufacturer Roketsan. It will operate in conjunction with an existing, smaller operations center.

“The center will be capable of tracking all space objects of Turkish origin, but only be managing government-sponsored satellites and missions,” a TUBITAK press correspondent said.

“We’re consulting with ESA, NASA, CNSA and other international industry partners to build an efficient space infrastructure and make our systems interoperable with theirs as part of Turkey’s wider space strategy,” official added.

Turkey currently operates a number of telecommunications and Earth observation satellites and is hoping to produce its next generation of satellites in Turkey with maximum local contribution.

A high-resolution spy satellite that stirred some heat with Israel last year over Israeli and Western worries that sensitive images might end up in the hands of Islamist terrorists, named Gokturk-1, is scheduled to be launched this year, followed up by an indigenously built SAR satellite planned for orbit in 2018.

Turkey hopes to begin sending its own satellites to space by 2023, its 100th anniversary as a modern republic.

Ukrainian military helicopter shot down in Slaviansk

A Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down near the pro-Russian rebel-controlled eastern town of Slaviansk on Monday, but the pilots survived, the Defence Ministry said.

The helicopter, an Mi-24, which came under fire from a heavy machine gun, crashed into a river. The ministry said in a statement the crew were evacuated to a nearby camp but did not give any detail of their condition.

At least three other helicopters have been shot down by pro-Russian rebels since uprisings began in eastern parts of the country early this year.

 

The New Strategic Reality in the Black Sea

The crisis in Ukraine, which led to annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, had an immediate impact on the strategic situation across the entire Black Sea region. Russia emerged as a clear beneficiary mostly at the expense of Ukraine. The new situation will now have repercussions for other regional actors, in particular Turkey and Romania, and will lead to the increased involvement of the United States. However, Washington will likely prefer to support Romania over Turkey in an attempt to avoid the creation of a potential Russo-Turkic geopolitical duopoly in the region.

Russian gains

The annexation of Crimea has greatly increased Russia’s strategic footprint in the Black Sea region. From a military perspective, the peninsula can serve as an outpost for extending power projection towards southern Ukraine, the Balkans and Turkey.  Now that Moscow’s military presence is no longer constrained by former legal agreements with the Ukrainian side, it can fully utilise the geostrategic potential of Crimea by implementing a broad spectrum of mutually reinforcing instruments.  The Iskander surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missile, for example, with a 400 kilometre operational range, could cover the entire southern part of Ukraine – including important industrial cities like Odessa, Kryvyi Rih and Dnipropetrovsk, a large part of Moldova, the entire Romanian coastline and a significant part of the Turkish Black Sea coast. The surface-to-surface systems can be further complemented by long-range, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles providing a full spectrum of capability to strike ground targets, interdict maritime traffic and impose no-fly zones.

The range of power projection can be further extended by employing air and naval assets. The Russian air force, through newly gained access to ex-Ukrainian air bases in Crimea, now has a broader presence covering almost the entire Black Sea coastline, Transnistria and southern Ukraine comfortably within its operational range. It’s worth stressing that the location of the Crimea peninsula makes it a very attractive place for stationing airborne troops, naval infantry and Spetsnaz (special operations forces) for potential deployment in southern Ukraine. The deployment of troops would be further facilitated in the near future by the acquisition of Mistral amphibious assault ships, of which one is to be allocated to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The annexation of Crimea has also radically improved the capabilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It has now gained unimpeded access to the Sevastopol naval base alongside an entire ex-Ukrainian naval infrastructure on the peninsula.

Before the Crimean crisis, the Black Sea Fleet had two cruisers, one destroyer, two frigates, ten corvettes and one diesel-powered submarine and constituted a major naval power in the region. Its potential was only exceeded by the Turkish Navy which splits its forces between the Black Sea and the Aegean and Mediterranean theatres. The potential of the Black Sea Fleet will be further increased after completion of an ambitious modernisation programme which will add six new frigates, six new submarines, a Mistral amphibious assault ship and several other smaller vessels. Assuming no radical changes to the naval potential of other countries in the region, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will soon equal or be greater than the combined fleets of all the other Black Sea coastal states.

Apart from the increase in its offensive capabilities, Russia will also see its defensive posture strengthen. Crimea offers Russia a strong forward defence point, particularly against potential air and sea incursions into the south-western regions of the Russian Federation. Anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities of Black Sea Fleet complemented by similar land-based systems on the peninsula will together create a strong line of defence ahead of the Russian mainland.

Emerging duopoly?

Consequences of the crisis have been almost entirely negative for Ukraine. Crimea was Ukraine’s window to the Black Sea and home to key naval bases in Sevastopol and Donuzlav Bay, which are now lost.  The Ukrainian navy has, at least temporarily, lost most of its warships during the Crimean crisis and currently has only one vessel capable of full-scale combat operations – the Hetman Sahaydachniy. The loss of naval bases in Crimea leaves Odessa as the primary and only alternative place for the dislocated Ukrainian Navy. However this naval base is potentially well within the operational range of missile systems located in Crimea and due to its geographic location, a Russian blockade would be relatively easy to execute.

The annexation of Crimea has significantly changed the balance of power in the region towards a more duopolistic geopolitical arrangement – between Russian and Turkey. To some extent, this arrangement resembles one from the 18th or 19th century. From the Turkish point-of-view, the immediate impact of the crisis is rather negative since the country has to now face a more powerful and assertive Russian presence in the Black Sea region resulting in the deterioration of Ankara’s relative position versus Moscow. The newly expanded Russian military presence will likely put Turkey in a more defensive position in the Black Sea.

Ankara has often voiced concerns about Russian actions in the region in the recent years. With the annexation of Crimea, however, it avoided challenging Moscow directly and can be seen as a result of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbours” foreign policy. There is also a notable increase in trade and economic relations between both countries along with a significant dependence on Russian energy for Turkey. Both countries also recognise each other’s strength and position in the region and understand that a direct confrontation would have far reaching consequences, potentially destabilising vast areas across the Black Sea, Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia.

The new balance of power also underlines Turkey’s role as the sole local actor capable of potentially challenging Russian expansion in the region. This increases the importance of Ankara on the international stage and elevates it further as an alternative to Moscow for smaller countries. Therefore, the crisis provides Turkey with an opportunity to capitalise on its status of a regional power. However, the extent of that impact will significantly depend on US policy choices and the degree to which Washington will actually decide to support Ankara directly rather than countering Russia by strengthening other actors in the region.

It’s already visible that one of results of the Ukrainian crisis will be an increased US presence in the region. Apart from more frequent naval visits to the Black Sea basin, Washington will likely extend different forms of support to its NATO allies. Despite Turkey being the strongest regional ally, it’s very likely that Bucharest will become a major, if not the main, recipient of increased US support. In general, Romania is likely to firmly establish itself, due to the degradation of Ukraine, as a third power in the region after Russia and Turkey. From the US perspective the country offers several strategic advantages. It’s the least dependent of the coastal states on Russian energy. It was also historically less pro-Russian than many other Balkan countries (e.g. Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece).  In addition the country offers a good access point to several critical areas in South-Eastern Europe as it’s located in the direct vicinity of the Balkans, Ukraine and the Black Sea. Romania’s convenient position can be used as a logistical hub to serve US forces en route to the Middle East or Central Asia. The country already hosts US military personnel, mainly at the Mihail Kogălniceanu air base. All these factors make Romania a good candidate for a buffer to potential future Russian expansion.

Geopolitical shifts

In addition, the US may also have its own strategic interest in favouring Romania over Turkey. On the surface it may appear that Turkey would be the most natural candidate for receiving US support as the most prominent regional power capable of challenging Russian influence. However, further strengthening of Turkey at the expense of other regional countries could lead to the creation of a geopolitical duopoly transforming the region into a quasi-Russo-Turkic condominium. This in turn could significantly reduce influence of external actors thus potentially leading to marginalization of US influence in the area.

Furthermore, Turkey, due to its military and economic strength, could be a more difficult partner for the US. It’s also well possible that Ankara would actually see increased US presence as a factor weakening its regional position and a potential constraint on pursuing own foreign policy objectives.  Bucharest, on the contrary, would not only be less willing and able to challenge US influence, but would rather see it as a factor elevating its position in the region. Thus, extending support to Romania not only creates a buffer against potential further Russian expansion but also helps to maintain a less concentrated balance of power in the region. That in turn would help Washington to maintain a more flexible and unimpeded access to the area.

The chain of events which unfolded due to the Ukrainian crisis has led to a significant change in the strategic situation in the Black Sea region. Turkey has to now face a larger and more assertive Russian presence, which will likely force it to deploy more resources to its northern flank and maintain a defensive posture in the Black Sea. While Russia, after more than 20 years, has managed to restore a significant presence in the area. It is not yet on the level achieved during the times of the Soviet Union, but is closer to its position during the 19th century.

By Mr. Adam Klus

Adam Klus is a PhD student of the Past, Space and Environment in Society Doctoral Programme at the University of Eastern Finland. His research interests include; geopolitics of Eastern Europe, country risk analysis, asymmetric threats, unconventional use of military force, and geopolitically disruptive technologies. He works as an investment professional and has several years of experience from financial companies in London and Helsinki.

McConnell Calls for US to Arm Ukraine

WASHINGTON — The US Senate’s top Republican on Thursday said America should send weapons to the Ukrainian military as that country teeters on the brink of war with Russia.

Russian forces continue to occupy Crimea in southern Ukraine, which Russia claims to have annexed. And pro-Russian forces and activists are stirring unrest in eastern Ukraine, which also is home to a large ethnic Russian population.

US officials and analysts say Moscow is behind the activity in eastern Ukraine with the aim of creating a scenario under which its forces would be sent to “protect” ethnic Russians. Moscow denies those charges.

The Obama administration has slapped economic sanctions on some individuals said to be capable of influencing Russian President Vladimir Putin. But European leaders have been reluctant to go further, and because Europe’s economy is more intertwined with Moscow’s, experts say the European Union’s help is essential to persuading Putin to stand down.

US officials say their options are limited, and so far have declined to send lethal weapons to Ukraine’s military out of fears of stoking an all-out war.

But Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says that should change — even amid reports of a deal between US, Ukrainian and Russian leaders to begin de-escalating the situation.

“Here is what I would do: I would be sending arms to the Ukrainian Army,” McConnell said Thursday during an interview with a Mt. Sterling, Ky., radio station. “I would encourage the European Union to expand and take in Ukraine … I would provide serious assistance to the Ukrainians so that they could defend themselves.”

McConnell wouldn’t stop there. He echoed other GOP lawmakers in saying Russia’s invasion of Crimea and alleged actions in eastern Ukraine show President Barack Obama’s decision to reverse his predecessor’s missile defense plans in Europe was a mistake.

“I would renew the discussions that the president just dropped, the idea of missile defense in the Czech Republic and Poland at the beginning of his term as a sort of gesture to the Russians,” McConnell said.

“I would re-engage with the Poles and the Czechs and see if we can’t get missile defense back in those countries. All of those steps would indicate without sending in a single American soldier that the US is serious in standing up to this kind of new form of Russian aggression.”

McConnell’s arms-to-Ukraine plan and call to erect the missile shield in Europe would, if enacted, be a boon for the American defense sector, which says it has been damaged by across-the-board budget cuts.

McConnell, a leading congressional critic of Obama who is locked in a tough re-election fight, blamed the US commander in chief for enabling Russia’s aggression.

“You are hard pressed to name a single place in the world where we are in better shape now than we were when he came to office,” McConnell said. “When you think of Syria, you think of the endless discussions with Iran. And so you got Vladimir Putin sitting there looking at that, a guy who believes that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the single biggest disaster, geopolitical disaster, of the previous century, who yearns to restore the empire, and he looks at American leadership and concludes that they won’t do anything.”

Richard Haas of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was a senior US national security official under President George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, wrote Wednesday that “Putin can be expected to continue to interfere in Ukraine for as long as he can — and so long as it serves his aim of strengthening his grip on power at home.

That means, Haas said, “Western policy should seek to frustrate this strategy.”

He says the US and its Western allies have options, but he did not call for American arms shipments to Kiev’s military.

Those options include strengthening Ukraine politically and economically, Haas contends. Washington and its partners also should implement new, tougher sanctions on Moscow that “target Russian financial institutions and limit what may be exported to Russia, and the US and EU should communicate their agreement on such sanctions to Putin, so that he understands the full price he will pay for destabilizing Ukraine.”

Haas also wrote that Putin’s actions should be a “wake-up call for NATO.”

“People and governments need to rid themselves of the comforting illusion that countries’ use of military force to acquire territory is an anachronism,” he wrote. “European defense spending and capacity needs to increase, as does America’s presence in select NATO countries, something that can be achieved even as the US increases its presence in Asia.”

DefenseNews

US internal politics hinder arming of key allies

A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-US Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24.
A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-US Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24.

The US Navy’s frigate force is rapidly shrinking as the 1980s-era ships are taken out of service. The Navy wants to transfer the ships to friendly nations for further service, and several nations are eager to have them.

But in recent years, congressional politics have made some of the proposed moves overly controversial, and measures to approve the transfers have run afoul of partisan politics, particularly where Turkey and Pakistan are concerned.

But on April 7, the House passed a bill approving the transfer of eight frigates — four to Taiwan, two to Thailand and two to Mexico. Two of the ships named in the bill already have left service, with the other six set to leave the US fleet in 2015.

The bill now lies with the Senate, where it might have come to a vote before the body adjourned for a two-week recess. As of April 10, however, it appeared the opportunity for quick action would pass, leaving the measure to be taken up at a later date.

The House-sponsored bill eliminated a Senate bill introduced in November that included the same ships, plus three more for Pakistan — along with a series of conditions that country has recoiled from meeting.

Forces in the Senate have balked as well at providing Pakistan with the ships, and a hold — reportedly from Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky., — has been placed on the bill.

Similar squabbles led to another frigate transfer bill dying with the previous Congress. That bill would have provided more frigates for Turkey, which already operates eight ex-US frigates.

The latest House bill avoids those questions and centers the move on Taiwan.

“The transfer to Taiwan of retired US Navy frigates is an important part of the US commitment to Taiwan’s security,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “The administration and Congress must continue to find ways to enhance Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities.”

The bill would only approve a ship’s transfer should the specified nation and the US reach agreement. It does not indicate such a move is a done deal.

DefenseNews

Turkey shoots down Syrian Mig

A pair of Turkish Air Force F-16s intercepted and shot down one of two Syrian Mig-23 type fighter aircraft after the aircraft violated Turkish Airspace, TR Defence sources confirmed on Sunday.

“Our F-16s went up in the air and shot that plane down. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, then from now on, our slap will be hard,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters at a campaign rally in Istanbul.

Syria’s state-controlled news agency SANA reported that the pilot successfully ejected and was quickly rescued.

The two Syrian Mig 23s flying north were spotted by Turkish radar and warned four times before entering Turkish airspace. One of them turned around but the other continued into Turkish airspace.  One of the Turkish F-16s engaged the Syrian Mig just inside the Turkish border with an AMRAAM radar-guided missile. The Syrian aircraft was hit and finally crashed about 1000 yards south of the Turkish-Syrian border.

Erdogan on Sunday congratulated the military for downing a Syrian warplane near its border and warned of a “heavy” response if its airspace was violated.

“I congratulate the chief of general staff, the armed forces and those honourable pilots… I congratulate our air forces,” said the premier.

Turkey toughened its rules of engagement toward Syria after Syria’s shooting down an unarmed Turkish F-4 Phantom over the Mediterranean Sea.  Turkish Air Force shut down a Syrian military transport helicopter last year, also for violating Turkish airspace.

 

Turkey dispatches AWACS to monitor Crimea

Turkish Air Forces has sent an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft to fly over the Black Sea region to monitor the situation developing in Crimea, TR Defense sources confirmed on Wednesday.

Turkey’s Boeing 737-based AEW&C aircraft is currently the closest airborne NATO asset watching Crimea’s airspace.

The aircraft boasts an advanced Northrop Grumman-made AESA radar and has a cruise range of over 6,000 kilometeres. The range of the radar has been reported to be 380 kilometers.

On Monday, NATO also approved reconnaissance flights by other alliance AWACS aircraft over Poland and Romania to monitor the situation from the north west.

 

US still hopeful over Turkey’s long-range SAM bid

A foreign-supplied Patriot missile launcher is pictured at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep in February 2013. NATO allies have stepped up pressure on Turkey to walk away from a deal to purchase an anti-missile system from China. Other bidders include the US, with the Patriot system, and Eurosam, which builds the Aster 30. (AFP/Getty Images)
A foreign-supplied Patriot missile launcher is pictured at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep in February 2013. NATO allies have stepped up pressure on Turkey to walk away from a deal to purchase an anti-missile system from China. Other bidders include the US, with the Patriot system, and Eurosam, which builds the Aster 30. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Turkish government and the country’s largest defense company are under increasing pressure from Turkey’s NATO allies to rethink a September decision to award a $3.44 billion air defense contract to a Chinese bidder.

Procurement officials have privately admitted that if Turkey finalizes the deal with the Chinese manufacturer, its entire defense cooperation effort with Western counterparts, including defense and non-defense companies, could be jeopardized.

“I think there is growing concern in Ankara over that deal,” one official familiar with the program said. “These concerns will definitely play a role in final decision-making, although they alone cannot be a reason to change course.”

Specifically, officials with Turkish company Aselsan are concerned that its connection to the deal could harm its corporate relations with Western banks.

In September, Turkey selected China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC) to construct the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system. The Turkish government said it opted for the Chinese solution based mainly on deliberations over price and technology transfer.

The Chinese contender defeated a US partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot air defense system; Russia’s Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300; and Italian-French consortium Eurosam, maker of the Aster 30.

Turkish officials said if contract negotiations with CPMIEC fail, talks would be opened with the second-place finisher, Eurosam. Next in line would be the US bidder. The Russian option has been eliminated.

But NATO and US officials have said any Chinese-built system could not be integrated with Turkey’s joint air defense assets with NATO and the United States.

They also have warned that any Turkish company that may act as local subcontractor in the program would face serious US sanctions because CPMIEC is on a US list of companies to be sanctioned under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

US diplomats have said Turkish companies working on US products or technology could be subject to intense scrutiny, or requested to adopt stringent security measures to erect a wall between US technology-related activities and CPMIEC.

They said the sanctions would be imposed on any company or individual cooperating with the blacklisted companies, especially when the use of US technology is in question.

In December, Aselsan, potentially CPMIEC’s main Turkish partner in the contract, became the first casualty of the US sanctions. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a US investment bank, pulled out of a joint bid to advise Aselsan on its second listing on Istanbul’s stock exchange, citing Turkey’s contract negotiations with CPMIEC.

Aselsan’s management shrugged it off and said it would select another bank for the task.

But the procurement official said that Aselsan’s concern over corporate repercussions has increased.

“I think they now view the deal potentially punishing for the company,” he said.

One Aselsan official admitted that after Merrill Lynch’s pullout, the company has been in talks for the underwriting with two more international banks, Barclays and Goldman Sachs. Both have echoed the same concerns, pointing to possible US sanctions.

“The press reports over difficulties with these two banks are correct,” one Aselsan official confirmed on condition of anonymity. “Other investment banks do not look promising. We may wait for a better timing for the listing.”

The difficulties over a Chinese air and anti-missile defense architecture for NATO member Turkey also were discussed during French President François Hollande’s recent visit here.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who accompanied Hollande during the Jan. 27 visit, met with Murad Bayar, Turkey’s top defense procurement official.

“Inevitably, the program was discussed at the top level, with the French raising concerns and urging the Turkish government to rethink the deal,” one senior government official said.

Similarly, the same official said, the Americans are voicing their concerns on an almost daily basis through various channels.

He said he could not comment on how the diplomatic offensive is influencing the government’s decision.

The Turkish government has extended an end-of-January deadline for the US and European competitors to rebid for the contract.

The Turkish program consists of radar, launcher and interceptor missiles to counter enemy aircraft and missiles. Turkey has no long-range air defense system.

About half of Turkey’s network-based air defense picture has been paid for by NATO. The country is part of NATO’s Air Defense Ground Environment.

Without NATO’s consent, it will be impossible for Turkey to make the planned Chinese system operable with these assets, some analysts said.

Turkey, Sikorsky ink $3.5 billion helicopter deal

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that his government and US helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft had signed a long-dormant contract to co-produce an initial batch of 109 utility helicopters.

“We signed the $3.5 billion agreement today,” Erdogan said in televised remarks during a ceremony for the delivery by Boeing of Turkey’s first airborne early warning and control aircraft. “This [Sikorsky deal] was an important signing ceremony for us.”

In May, Turkey’s procurement office made an unusual announcement: Turkey “had come very close to signing a $3.5 billion contract with Sikorsky Aircraft for the co-production of scores of utility helicopters.” But penning the deal had since been delayed as top Turkish procurement management accused “US corporate and other bureaucracy” for factors that caused delays.

Turkey in 2011 selected Sikorsky as its partner company to lead production of the country’s next-generation utility helicopters. Sikorsky defeated Italian-British AgustaWestland by bidding its T-70, the Turkish version of its S-70 Black Hawk International.

The S-70 Black Hawk International is used by dozens of militaries, including Turkey. AgustaWestland was competing with its TUHP 149, the Turkish version of its newly developed A-149.

The first batch will be for 109 utility helicopters, but with follow-on orders, more than 600 platforms could be built at a cost of more than $20 billion, defense analysts said.

Most helicopters in the first batch will go to the military, with the Gendarmerie receiving the largest portion, and the Army, Navy, Air Force and the special forces command each getting their share. The remaining machines will go to the Security Directorate, meaning the police forces, and to the Firefighting Department.

DefenseNews

Turkey likely to order F-35s next year

Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp's factory located in Fort Worth, Texas in this October 13, 2011 handout photo provided by Lockheed Martin.
Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp’s factory located in Fort Worth, Texas in this October 13, 2011 handout photo provided by Lockheed Martin.

Turkey is likely to start ordering F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) from 2015 onwards and it will start with two orders initially, Turkey’s undersecretary for state-run defense industries Murad Bayar said on Thursday.

“We will start F-35 orders either this year or the next. Right now, it is likely to be next year,” Bayar told reporters. “We will initially order two. The delivery time will be, depending on the orders, probably in 2017-2018.”

Turkey had already announced it plans to buy 100 F-35 jets for $16 billion. Bayar said he expected the deliveries of 100 aircraft to be completed within 10 years.

The F-35, considered to be the world’s most expensive weapons program at $396 billion so far, was designed to be the next-generation fighter jet for the U.S. forces.

It is being built by the United States, Britain and seven other co-development partners – Italy, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

Separately, Bayar said Turkey was aiming to achieve results in April on its talks with China over the purchase of long-range missile defense systems, a move highly criticized by Turkey’s NATO allies.

In September Turkey chose China’s FD-2000 missile-defense system over rival offers from Franco-Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and U.S.-listed Raytheon Co (RTN.N). It said China offered the most competitive terms and would allow co-production in Turkey.

U.S. and NATO officials have raised concerns with Turkish officials about the decision to buy the system from CPMIEC, a company hit by U.S. sanctions for sales of items to either Iran, Syria or North Korea that are banned under U.S. laws to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“Our talks with China are ongoing. We have extended the bidding until the end of April. We are aiming to get results in early April on this,” Bayar said.

AIRBUS DELIVERIES

Bayar also said Turkey will seek compensation over the late delivery of the A400 military transport plane after Airbus (AIR.PA) failed to meet some of its contractual obligations.

“My message to Airbus is that it should first focus on fulfilling the terms of the contract. There is no additional bargaining here. The contract, even with the amended version, requires the fulfillment of certain technical qualities and we have had to hold these talks because these requirements were not completely fulfilled,” Bayar said.

On Wednesday, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said bargaining was behind the delay and that it was ‘unbearable’ that the company was still negotiating with Turkey over the plane.

“The aircraft is ready to go. It is instantly, operationally fit for flight. I find the situation increasingly unacceptable,” Enders told reporters.

Bayar said he still expected the aircraft, which was supposed to have been delivered to Turkey at the end of last year, to arrive in March but Turkey was going to ask for compensation.

“Of course there has been a delay in the delivery schedule and there will be compensation because of this. This will be the financial dimension,” Bayar said.

Meanwhile, Bayar said Japan had told Turkey that it will not allow the export of a Japanese tank engine to third parties without its permission.

His comments came after Japanese media reported that a deal between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe was struck in May, during Abe’s visit to Turkey, on the supply of engines, but that Turkey’s desire to export to third parties was likely to block the deal.

Bayar said that the potential purchase of the engine for Turkey’s Altay tank was dropped for now.

“We have agreed with Japanese authorities to leave this topic off the agenda and focus on other areas of cooperation.”

His comments appeared to close the door on a potential deal for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T) to supply engines for the Altay tank being developed by Turkey’s Otokar (OTKAR.IS).

Reuters