Sources believe Turkey got missile assistance from China, Pakistan
"Don't forget, Turkey sits between two countries with MRBM and IRBM capability, and they just can't sit back and do nothing."
· Task: Prime Minister of Turkey
· Assumed Office: March 14, 2003
ANKARA — Turkey was said to have reached the capability to produce and launch a medium-range ballistic missile.
Officials said Turkey's state-owned defense industry has completed a ballistic missile that could reach almost anywhere in the Middle East. They said the missile was determined to have a range of 800 kilometers.
Western diplomats said Turkey was probably receiving missile technology and expertise from China and Pakistan, both of whom boast IRBMs.
They said Ankara's selection of China's HQ-9 ballistic missile defense system was expected to lead to significant technology transfer and coproduction that would enhance any Turkish weapons project.
"Don't forget, Turkey sits between two countries with MRBM and IRBM capability, and they just can't sit back and do nothing," a regional diplomat said.
"Turkish missiles are more advanced than American or German missiles," Yucel Altinbasak, director of the Tubitak state scientific research institute, said.
The initial trials of the 800-kilometer missile took place in late 2013. Officials said the missile was fired from an aircraft over the Black Sea and demonstrated Ankara's ability to produce a weapon with a range of 1,500 kilometers as early as 2014.
"The trials showed that the missile contained a high level of accuracy and could strike ships and fixed ground targets," an official said.
Officials said the Turkish project sought to develop a missile with a range of 2,500 kilometers, which could also target Central Asia as well as Europe. They said the project was deemed a priority by the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.
"The goal is to produce a family of medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles that could be fired from air, ground and naval platforms," the official said. "All this stems from our own technology and expertise."
The Erdogan government has provided few details of the missile project. Officials cited Turkey's commitment to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which restricts the proliferation of missiles and parts with a range of more than 300 kilometers.
Turkish Defense Forces tested a cruise missile in November 2013.
"There are some projects that the less said about them the better," another official said.
The missile project was believed to be linked to Turkey's drive to develop a space-launch vehicle. In July 2013, Turkey's Defense Industry Undersecretariat signed a contract with the state-owned Roketsan to produce its first SLV, capable of sending satellites into an orbit of up to 700 kilometers.
"Turkey's Western allies, however, worry that the Turks may be intending to use their own launching pad to fire the long-range missiles they hope to build," Turkish defense analyst Burak Bekdil wrote in the London-based Al Monitor. "Whatever their intentions for the missile program could be, several expected and unexpected challenges on a global scale will likely be awaiting the neo-Ottoman army over any missile firepower it intends to possess."
Meanwhile, Turkey plans to engage in arbitration to resolve a two-year natural gas dispute with Iran.
Officials said the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has decided to seek international arbitration over the price of Iranian gas. They said Ankara has turned to the International Chamber of Commerce to reduce the price of Iranian gas, deemed above that of market level. Turkey has been importing 10 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas per year.
"Turkey will continue with the arbitration process unless Iran agrees to revise the price," Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Feb. 4.
Turkey, seeking to reduce consumption, has turned to other suppliers amid the dispute with Iran. Over the last year, Ankara has overseen imports of gas from neighboring Azerbaijan, which sold the fuel for 35 percent that of Iran.