Dubious “Triumph”: Did Russia really win when sold C-400 to Turkey?

Is it possible to consider the sale of the newest air defense missile system to Erdogan as a victory for Russian defense industry on the world market?

The Turkish Agency “Anadolu” reported that “Moscow and Ankara are holding consultations in the field of the licensed production of elements of anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) S-400.” News published according to the head of “Rostec” Sergei Chemezov. Speaking about the advance rate of S-400, he said: “Such a practice in the world market of military-technical cooperation (MTC) is rare. But the Russian industry has confirmed its capabilities, and we are going clearly in the schedule of work. The first deliveries of system elements were made this month. ”


According to Chemezov, this is facilitated by a constructive dialogue of the political leadership of the two countries, which makes it possible to prevent attempts of interference with the cooperation of competitors. It is clear that we are talking about pressure from, above all, the United States – the leader of NATO, Turkey is a member of Alliance.


Chemezov promised good prospects for the beginning military-technical cooperation between Russia and Turkey.

  • We have a number of joint projects for the development of promising aviation and helicopter complexes, components for armored vehicles, after-sales service of the supplied weapons. In addition, Turkey is showing interest in the newest Russian combat modules, air defense systems of various ranges, as well as anti-tank complexes, – the head of Rostec said.


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Meanwhile, if we return to the recent past, when the deal on the S-400 was just being discussed, President Recep Erdogan simultaneously launched the project of the national long-range air defense system Siper, the first test of which should take place as early as 2021. The head of Turkey at a meeting at the defense industry research institute TÜBİTAK SAGE (Ankara) firmly stated that in the future Ankara will cease to buy any missile defense and air defense systems abroad at all. Everything that the Turks are fighting with must be done in Turkey, because, according to Erdogan, you cannot fight a lot with other people’s weapons. For this purpose, Ankara has already spent $ 35 billion, which has reduced the purchase of defense products abroad from 80% to 20%.


The result is obvious. Thus, in the Syrian province of Afrin during the operation “Olive Branch”, which the Turkish army conducted against the Kurds, Erdogan’s soldiers fought exclusively with their weapons, using Kirpi and Cobra armored vehicles, Fırtına long-range howitzer, Kasirga missiles with a range of up to 100 kilometers, ATAK helicopters, Alpagu kamikaze drones.


As for the Turkish air defense, in fact it is not – if not counting the fleet of American “eagles” F-16. At one time, Washington seemed to have convinced Ankara that with the appearance of the 5th generation F-35 aircraft in the Turkish Air Force, the sky would lock onto the castle. However, more and more signals suggest otherwise. Actually, it was with the failures of the American super-fighter that the difficult moves towards the Russian Triumph air defense system began.


Given the endless conflicts in the Middle East, in which militarily powerful Israel with the Jewish Iron Dome and a powerful Air Force and Saudi Arabia with the best American weapons are involved, Ankara found itself in a very difficult situation. Happen that – there is simply nothing to cover the Turkish cities from the “sworn friends”. Of course, you can buy air defense equipment from the United States, but then the same research institute TÜBİTAK SAGE, like the entire local defense industry, will be left without funding.


Moreover, today the situation is becoming even more dangerous due to the aggravation of American-Iranian relations. Everyone says that Tehran, if anything happens, will launch a rocket strike back at the Jewish state. But the Persians, cornered, are also capable of attacking American troops stationed in Turkey, if only because the “weapon of retaliation” here will definitely achieve the goal. Is this why the urgent deliveries of Turkey’s C-400 are related to this?


However, the security problem of Turkish airspace did not arise yesterday. Back in September 2013, Ankara, in the framework of the national program T-LORMIDS, selected the Chinese anti-aircraft missile system HQ-9. If you go back at that time, then in the announced tender participated, we recall, the system Patriot and “Triumph”.


The Turks explained the victory of the defense industry of the People’s Republic of China with cheap prices, in spite of their worse characteristics than those of competitors. Let’s say more: precisely because of the low price of the HQ-9 today – the world’s best-selling anti-aircraft system.


So, the Turks at the last moment refused from the air defense system from the Middle Kingdom, because the Chinese decided not to transfer key technologies in the interests of the local military industrial complex. Here again, Iran should be recalled, since at about the same time the Persians put the Bavar-373 complex into service for their air defense forces – quite a decent system for intercepting air targets.


After its tests, as the local media write, President Erdogan came to TÜBİTAK SAGE and said: “I want my own production long-range anti-missile defense”. It seems that even then, work began on the Siper SAM system. In addition to the above, research institutes attracted other leading corporations of the Turkish defense industry – ASELSAN and ROKETSAN.


But it all came down to finances. Experts are still wondering how many million lire Erdogan singled out? Judging by the estimates of the Istanbul Stock Exchange, the leading share of ASELSAN in this project is estimated at $ 227 million. Turkish media counted about half a billion dollars that Ankara scraped together to develop the Siper air defense system. Taking into account the fact that they have attracted more French people from the Eurosam consortium, who for any trinket require significant amounts in euros, it is not necessary to wait for anything serious.


In short, the money was scraped together a little in order to create an analogue of the C-300 and especially the C-400. There is no doubt that for Erdogan the rapprochement with Putin in defiance of the “Washington Regional Committee” was difficult, but forced – if not to say – by the hard-won decision.


On the one hand, the development of the Siper air defense system apparently stalled, on the other – the country is experiencing an acute shortage of money for the purchase of foreign systems. On the third hand, for Russia, a contract with Turkey allows for the development of a national military industrial complex.


And nevertheless, is it possible to call a contract profitable for Russia ? As you know, on December 27, 2017, Sergey Chemezov reported that Turkey acquires four S-400 ZRS divisions from Russia for $ 2.5 billion, with Turkey paying 45% of this amount as an advance, and the remaining 55% is a loan. After which the deal became a major political success for Moscow, causing tensions between Turkey and its NATO allies.


Everything would be fine (in terms of solvency on Turkish debt for the C-400), if Erdogan ruled forever. But he was already almost overthrown by the pro-American political forces. In addition, the Turkish economy is far from being in the best shape. If a world crisis happens, or a country gets involved in a war, its national finances will definitely be undermined. As an example, it is enough to recall the story of deliveries of Russian weapons to Venezuela and a loan of billions of dollars – at the time of the transaction there were few who doubted the solvency of Caracas. However, in just a few years, the Bolivarian debtor was in a difficult situation.


Of course, no one argues that the arms business creates tens of thousands of jobs in Russia. But if this is the case, the Turks paid only one “net” billion dollars for the 4-complex S-400, and they are already discussing the licensed assembly of Triumph. Meanwhile, TÜBİTAK SAGE employs experienced specialists who are assisted by highly competent engineers of Eurosam – the European leader in the field of air defense missile systems.


In this regard, one more difficult question involuntarily arises: is it possible that after a while Ankara will wave Moscow with the handle, they say, it no longer needs your systems by presenting its Siper-400 anti-aircraft missile system?


Therefore, before we say that America lost in competition in the Turkish market, it should be remembered that only 45% of the cost was paid for the C-400, and the deal, apparently, still implies  transfer of tehcnology.