NATO Ballistic Missile Defence Systems and Turkey

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NATO Ballistic Missile Defence Systems and Turkey

NATO Ballistic Missile Defence Systems and Turkey

Dr. Ali Serdar Erdurmaz[1]



In the summit declaration issued on April 4, 2009, all NATO Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the conclusions of the Bucharest Summit, that “ballistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to Allies forces, territory, and populations. Missile defence forms part of a broader response to counter this threat.”

The intelligence community assesses that the threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles is developing more rapidly than previously projected, while the threat of potential Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities has been slower to develop than previously estimated.  In the near term, the greatest missile threats from Iran will be to countries in the Middle East and in Europe.

On 17 September 2009, President Obama has approved a phased, adaptive approach for missile defence in Europe.  The “Phased, Adaptive Approach” for Missile Defence in Europe has four phases, three layers and emphasizes three important pillars; US National Missile Defence Systems, The Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence of NATO and the national missile defence systems of member nations. If any threat attempts to launch a missile at a NATO ally, it will face the consequences of its actions not from one country but from all NATO members. According to this program Turkey is going to undertake an important role however she has not have her own missile defence system capabilities.

Expectations from Turkey for the U.S. and NATO’s integrated missile defence system may be in the form of contributions in the first two layers. The program is primarily designed to increase protection against medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles but, to intercept those missiles as soon as possible after they’ve been launched in boost and ascent phase. For that reason, Turkey has a vital importance due to its geographical position within the context of the potential threat.

Turkey announced that it was out of the question for it to oppose security measures the North Atlantic Treaty Organization considers necessary, apparently ruling out any move to block a missile shield the U.S. is proposing within the Alliance. Turkey laid out three principles on which as a NATO member, it would base its approach to the missile shield.

In this article, studying NATO Missile Defence System (MDS) requirements from Turkey and examining Turkey’s position on this system will be put forward. And it will be bring before the resolutions to overcome the shortages of Turkish National Missile Defence requirements within NATO MDS.

Key words: NATO Ballistic Missile Defence System and Turkey, Missile shield and Turkey, ballistic missile defence, boost phase, ascent phase.



NATO’s New Strategic Concept, fundamentals of which were set by 12 wise men in Lisbon in November 2010, has been approved. NATO’s requirement for ballistic missile defense is

considered essential due to Iranian ballistic missile threat put forward within this concept. Although Turkey stated before approval of the Concept that it would not welcome explicit mention of threat and had it accepted, point of origin of the system architecture in NATO missile defense system, which is described as “missile shield”, is considered to be evaluation of Iran as the main threat. On the other hand, Iran rejects this situation and reacts to Turkey.

The fact that Turkey would play a leading and important role in multi-level and multiple-stage structure to be put it into effect in NATO Missile Defense System, in other words “Missile Shield” project, was mentioned by USA officials and led to fierce discussions among Turkish people. In this context, it is a prevailing idea among Turkish people that Turkey has very favorable relationships with Iran and there is no threat at this stage, therefore any missile defense facility to be established under the umbrella of NATO will lead to tense relationships with Iran. On the other hand, it is stated that systems planned to be established aim at protection of Israel, and are against Iranian threat. In this regard, it is argued that the purpose is to pull Turkey into an undesired environment.

Responsibility to be assumed by Turkey, which is a NATO member, within the scope of new strategic concept constitutes a small, but important part of an integrated system. In parallel with that, it is a reasonable approach to state that it does not pose a potential threat for Iran or any other country in the region as the entire system has a defensive and passive structure. It is considered beneficial to determine the architectural structure which NATO system is built on and expectations from Turkey within the scope of this project in order to evaluate correctness of the argument that the system will support Israel.

This paper aims at examining architectural project of NATO Missile System and revealing the role planned to be assigned to Turkey. In addition, this paper analyzes national facilities and capabilities of Turkey against a possible ballistic missile threat, evaluates what kind of a part Turkey should take within NATO system, and attempts to reveal possible solutions.

USA’s National Missile Defense System Program Works

Launched by Ronald Reagan, one of USA Presidents, around 25 years ago, USA National Missile Defense System is tried to be sustained and developed through a new program introduced today. As is known, Missile Defense System (Missile Shield) is a passive surface-to-air defense system, which works by striking aircraft and missiles or exploding nearby them. Causing damage on the territory of enemy states by means of these missiles is against its concept of use.

The USA builds and develops national missile shield program on its own mainland, and pursues a policy of deepening and extending it through other continents across the world according to sources of ballistic missile threats. To this end, it has adopted the way of making technological cooperation agreements with various countries in order to extend and integrate missile defense system. The purpose is to destroy any launched missile on its flight path as early as possible before arriving on mainland of the USA. It is necessary to establish a global early warning and tracking radar system network in order to protect lands of the USA against intercontinental ballistic missile attacks and to use missile batteries effectively. It is planned to install these kinds of infrastructure facilities and capabilities through integration with NATO (Kibaroglu, Fall 2000).

In this context, the USA made individual agreements with Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Japan and England for joint working in the matter of technology research and development on missile defense with regard to “Missile Defense Program” it prepared for National Missile Defense (NMD) budget studies in accordance with the purpose of developing its own national missile defense. In addition, countries that have missile defense programs and are concerned with this matter are as follows: The Netherlands, France, Poland, India, Russia, UAE, Israel, South Korea, Germany, Ukraine, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Romania. In this scope, NATO is regarded to be a country that is in progress of developing its own system architecture works. Turkey is not separately mentioned among above-mentioned countries. It is thought that Turkey has not signed the said agreement with the USA because it desires to take a part in NATO organization (The Missile Defense Program”, 2009-2010 , S.22, , 2009-2010)

Apart from that, the 19th page of the Program makes mention of a 20-year tight cooperation of the USA with Israel in regard to missile defense system. It is stated that this cooperation has been improved more with Arrow systems that can work jointly with the USA missile defense systems. It is pointed out that this relationship has been combined with joint short-range David’s Sling weapon system and upper-tier initiative (The Missile Defense Program”, 2009-2010 , S.22, , 2009-2010)

As it can be understood from the USA’s national missile defense configuration program, USA aims at forming a gradual defense network that can allow destruction of a missile launched from whichever part of the World before reaching its own mainland by pursuing the goal of both making its own national missile defense system integrated through cooperation with countries which are not NATO members and including the entire world in its coverage area through providing unity in NATO. In parallel with that, countries included in cooperation will be defended, too.

As is known, renewal of START Treaty with Russia expiring in December 2010 was brought to agenda with start of Barack Obama as new President of the USA. However, future of START treaty was endangered by Russia’s objection to systems planned to be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland within the scope of national missile defense of the USA.  Thus, President Obama instructed to work on alternative solutions. At the end of efforts made in parallel with that, practice named “Phased Adaptive Approach” aimed at missile defense of the continent of Europe, which was approved by President Obama on 17 September 2009, was put into practice (, 2009) (O’Reilly, October 2009). According to the new document approved, this approach is regarded as a proved and cost-effective solution to contribute to providing the security against ballistic missile threat of Iran.

How is Missile Defense System Considered within the Framework of New NATO Concept?

It is accepted by NATO that member countries of NATO, which is the most important tie of the USA with transatlantic Europe, should be integrated and designed in accordance with the system structure of the USA in order for these countries to be integrated into missile shield. In parallel with that, it was needed to integrate “Phased Adaptive Approach” suggested by the USA President Obama into NATO structure in order for lands of Europe and NATO member countries to be protected. Otherwise, serious difficulties would be encountered in implementation of the four stages determined.

NATO started works on this program following Prague Summit held in November 2002. Conducted feasibility studies were approved in NATO’s Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) in April 2006 (Components of Policy, Missile Defence for the protection of NATO, territory, 2009). By this means, political and military requirements of NATO regarding missile defense started to be supported technically. It is stated that NATO presidents and prime ministers approved at Bucharest Summit on 4 April 2008 that increasing ballistic missiles posed an incremental threat to allied forces, lands and people. Accordingly, it is expressed that missile defense will be a comprehensive response to threat. As part of this response, future contributions of the USA to this configuration will constitute a concrete input to efforts of NATO allies (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Bucharest Summit Declaration, md 37, 2008). At this NATO Summit, it was determined that USA missile defense systems deployed in Europe would contribute to defense of alliance. In this regard, it was accepted for this ability to be an integrated part of future comprehensive missile defense architecture of NATO. At the same summit, issue of cooperation with Russia on this matter came to the forefront, and encouragement of Russia in this regard was discussed.

At 2009 Strasbourg/Kehl Summit, alliance members assigned various units of NATO to prepare a comprehensive report to be negotiated at Lisbon Summit to be held in 2010. In conclusion, NATO missile defense architecture suggested after a host of works and efforts was accepted together with NATO’s New Strategic Concept brought to the agenda at Lisbon Summit.

NATO is still developing its own Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program. This program will be integrated with NATO command and control systems and the communication network that is currently in use after it is updated and relevant tests related to it are carried out. It will also have a complete coverage against tactical ballistic missiles having a range of up to 3000 km.

As much as it is understood from works performed within NATO, missile defense system architecture, which is projected to be installed within the body of NATO, will be fundamentally built upon the mechanism developed by the USA. Establishment and reinforcement of the defense will be ensured by moving Aegis anti-missiles deployed at sea, which make up fundamental of the National Missile Defense System of the USA, to seas surrounding the country subjected to threat in a time of crisis (Phased Adaptive Approach, SASC Testimony On New Missile Defense Strategy, 2009) ( (Status Of Implementing The Phased Adaptive Approach To Missile Defense In Europe, 2010).

As we have tried to explain above, fundamentals of NATO’s Missile Defense System consist of three elements: The national missile defense system of the USA; national missile defense systems of NATO member countries; and Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program to be built up through contribution of NATO member countries, which would constitute an environment to integrate the said systems with one another.

It is stated that a system within this configuration will not need 10 interceptors deployed on land in Poland, and big fixed radar facilities to be established in the Czech Republic. Accordingly, this plan was given up. It was stated that USA would contribute to interceptors deployed on land in Alaska and California through systems established at the fourth phase.

It is suggested in threat evaluations that short- and medium-range ballistic missile threat of Iran progresses more rapidly than predictions while inter-continental missile threat develops more slowly than predictions. Based on these evaluations, it is thought that main threat to originate from Iran will be towards USA alliance in Europe and Middle East in particular as well as its other components there.

Architecture of systems projected to be put into practice in the 2011s is made up of incremental advanced Missile-3 (SM-3) standard ballistic missile interceptors deployed at sea and on land and sensor radar systems deployed in Europe and backward as of the closest country with a potential threat. The USA considers that while it protects its own mainland against long-range ballistic missile threat with this kind of a phased approach, it will also be able to take measures against missile threat to be posed against the continent of Europe in the near future.

According to definition made by Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly, USA Missile Defense Agency Director, in Atlantic Council Missile Defense Conference on 12 October 2010 (Parrish, 2010) and plan approved by USA President Barack Obama in 2009; it was planned to structure missile defense of Europe as three-layered and under four stages against short, medium and intermediate range missiles and intercontinental range missiles.

The said four stages are as follows:

The first stage will continue until 2012. It will include deployment of tried and proven missile systems and sensors, which are based on systems called Aegis (Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense) (Brad, 2005)deployed at sea that are still available in accordance with USA’s National Missile Defense (NMD) Program, at seas closest to threat.

The second stage includes deployment of advanced systems deployed at sea and on land, which are still at the stage of development and test, against short and medium range missile attacks in the period from 2012 to 2015.

In the third stage, sea and shore defense system will step in against intermediate range missiles between 2015 and 2018. It is planned to structure this system in the continent of Europe.

The fourth stage from 2018 to 2020 will include early sensing and warning ability against medium and intermediate range missiles as well as protection against intercontinental ballistic missiles. Counter structuring on USA mainland is within the scope of this stage.

Lt. Gen. O’Reilly states that this configuration was basically aimed at ensuring protection against medium and intermediate range missiles with a range of 1000 – 5,500 km that fly in the outer space. A launched ballistic missile will be able to be destroyed in three layers by defense systems including sensors, radars and missiles deployed on lands, at seas and in the outer space.

It was stated that this would enable simultaneous tracking of hundreds of missiles and launch of 50 missiles at a time. According to the program, the launched missile will be blocked as early as possible at the boost and ascent phase following launch of the missile. Thus, advanced mobile systems should be deployed at appropriate times and places. If this is not possible, the launched ballistic missile will be struck in its flight pattern by means of systems deployed in high level and low level. Radars and computers to detect, track and destroy all kinds of missiles from medium range to international range missiles will be in tandem with Aegis ballistic missile defense system deployed on surface platform in USA.

It constitutes fundamental of the USA-NATO defense system to deploy systems designed in this pattern in hundreds of units to cover all NATO countries.

The first layer is the phase in which missile is launched and ascends to reach the necessary speed (Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, 2009, ) (Boost-Phase Intercept, 2012). This phase takes nearly 3-5 minutes for long-range missiles, and 1-2 minutes for short-range missiles (Boost Phase). In this phase, missile reaches over 1000 m. per seconds from a speed of zero. Missile is biggest in size and volume in this phase. Accordingly, it is in the simplest condition to be detected and struck.

The second layer refers to the phase in which missile reaches adequate speed, goes up to outer space from atmosphere after a range of 300 km., and reaches an average speed of 1300 m. per seconds (Mid-course phase).  It flies for approximately 25-30 minutes in this phase ( Midcourse Defense). In this phase, the missile will be struck via platforms deployed in the outer space or by means of various long-range missile defense systems on its flight path in the continent of Europe.

The terminal or descent phase includes 1 to 5 minute phase in which it enters into atmosphere from outer space again and performs the final approach to target ( About 33 Minutes Protecting America in the New Missile Age). In this phase, it will be necessary to destroy ballistic missile, which is on its way to target, through intervention of target country defense systems having systems like patriot. Turkey seems to have a vital importance in terms of taking necessary measures in the first phase of this four-stage three-layered system.

It is emphasized that joint actions should be taken in tandem with Russia in this stage in order for Russia not to perceive the configuration as a threat against itself (Kibaroglu, Fall 2000).   In this context, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, visited Moscow at the beginning of November 2010, and continued his pursuit of cooperation for Lisbon Summit (Secretary General in Moscow to prepare the Summit, 2010). As much as it is understood, Russia was ready for negotiation with NATO and the USA in regard to cooperation on this matter. This means that it would be possible to reach a positive result on this matter at the end of negotiations (Russia Seeks Further Dialogue on NATO Antimissile Plan, 2010). NATO-Russia Council has launched cooperative works on theatre missile defense, and is making comprehensive analyses regarding this cooperation (Missile defence cooperation with Russia, 2012). But it seems there are some problems that could not be solved so far because Russia would not participate in Chicago Summit on 21-22 May 2010  (Pifer, 2012) (Russia Offers Pyramid Radar for Missile Defense, 2012)

What Kind of an Approach Does Turkey Have Concerning Ballistic Missile Defense System? (Champion, Nov 01, 2010)

In the 2010s, for Turkey, there was no potential ballistic missile threat to appear in the near future thanks to “zero problem” policy Turkey implemented in its immediate surroundings. However, it is considered necessary to hold oneself in readiness against a potential threat likely to arise in the future because of capability of surrounding countries and Iran in particular to manufacture ballistic missile.

From the very beginning, Turkey has never had a positive approach towards attempts to cooperate with Turkey in accordance with the above-mentioned USA missile defense system program. Turkey thinks that it is more suitable to solve this issue within the framework of NATO obligations, and expressly states that it has gained importance for missile defense systems to be compatible with NATO Defense Concept. As a matter of fact, giving an interview to Defense News on 29 May 2001, a Turkish diplomat stated, “we support missile defense system of Americans providing that they include NATO countries within coverage area”.

Here, the important point is that Turkey does not have its own national missile defense system and overtly prefers to stay within the scope of NATO without showing any will to be included in this system together with the USA.

In fact, at the end of threat evaluations Turkey made on surrounding countries, it has perceived ballistic missiles as a threat, and felt the necessity for having systems against this threat. Accordingly, it has started procurement activities in order to have such systems.

For the first time in April, 2007, Turkey decided to initiate a tender for LORAMIDS (Long Range Air and Missile Defense System) conducted by Undersecretariat of Defense Industry through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) credit system. An offer was requested from Russia and China for procurement. However, since neither company gave an offer, Turkey extended bidding period from 1 December 2008 to 15 January 2009. The reason for presentation of no offer from either country was stated as desire of these countries for procurement to be through single source via inter-governmental negotiation instead of tender purchase. It is stated that Turkish companies such as Roketsan, Aselsan, Havelsan, Ayesas, FNSS, Gate and MilSoft showed an interest in joint production of Long Range Defense system. It is projected for Turkish companies to join the tender with a consortium to be formed. In this regard, tender contains the requirement for certain missile parts to be manufactured by domestic companies like Aselsan, Havelsan and Roketsan through technology transfer (Undersecretariat of Defense Industry)

In January 2006, Russia submitted an offer to Turkey in the matter of joint production of S-300 missiles (Demir, 23-01-2006). Upon this development, a technical committee from Turkey visited Russia and made an examination in the factory. It was stated that Russia brought new generation S-400 missile defense system to the table as an offer in addition to S-300s. Apparently, although only Russia leaned towards joint production at the beginning, the USA had to show flexibility later on as China displayed willingness on this matter, too. Therefore, while Russia was regarded as a serious rival against the USA, tender came to a blocking point as a result of intervention of China and did not reach a positive conclusion as neither Russia nor China gave an offer. It is known that China and Turkish engineers have been jointly working in the matter of missile development since 2002, and they have developed Yıldırım and Jaguar missiles.

It was learnt from news appearing on media in February 2010 that the USA government planned to sell Turkey a Patriot PAC 3 missile defense system amounting to 7.8 billion dollars. This attempt of the USA is regarded to be deriving from its effort to get ahead of Russia and China. Having a broad repercussion in the media, this news brought forward threat perceptions in the surroundings, and caused a debate among people concerning whether it was necessary to purchase this system (Amerika’dan Türkiye’ye 7.8 milyar dolarlık Patriot bataryası satma hazırlığı (USA preparing to sell Turkey Patriot battery of 7.8 billion dollars), 13 September 2009), (Bu füzeyi almamız şart mı? (Do we really have to purchase this missile?, 15 September 2009)

During his visit to Turkey in February 2008, Robert Gates, American Secretary of Defense, argued just at the missile systems procurement stage that missiles to be purchased should be integrated with NATO, implicitly referring to the USA and, at best, Israel missiles. Turkey went into the effort of expanding its room for negotiation among choices within NATO inventory by including French-Italian joint production missiles into these choices.

As is seen, Turkey has reached a conclusion by making an evaluation on potential threats to be addressed to it in the following decades, and made a decision in the matter of establishment of a countrywide missile defense system. However, since it does not have an affordable cost, the issue of adopting an individual behavior seems to have been suspended. Another reason may be good political relations Turkey has with surrounding countries, which causes Turkey not to go into an investment of such a high cost for now. In this case, the second option seems to be to bear the reducing cost through integration into this system within the body of NATO.

Turkey’s Approach

Ahmet Davutoğlu, The Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that three principles played an important role in approach of Turkey as a NATO member country to ballistic missile defense system installation within the scope of NATO’s New Concept, which was negotiated and accepted in Lisbon in November 2010 (Füze Kalkanında Üç İlke (Three Principles in Missile Shield), 2010).

“The issue in question…NATO missile defense system. These kinds of systems are based on deterrence, and aimed at preventing wars, but not causing wars. That is to say, it should be regarded as a process making existence of missiles in the parties meaningless. It should not mean producing more missiles. Turkey cannot oppose to these kinds of measures. This is because; this is a security organization, which does planning concerning security risks likely to occur. This is a very natural reaction. Ballistic missiles are a threat in the world. There is also nuclear threat and terrorist threat in the world. Certain discussions are carried out and technical preparations are made within NATO on this matter. Turkey is part of this process, and actively participates in these discussions.” Davutoğlu pointed out that geography of Turkey and the relations it promoted made Turkey a highly important actor. He defined the principles as follows:

  • The first principle: Defense systems can be developed within NATO by considering security risks. It is even part of task of NATO as a security organization, and Turkey takes part in this process(Füze Kalkanında Üç İlke (Three Principles in Missile Shield), 2010)
  • The second principle: This defense system of NATO should surround all countries, and be planned in accordance with needs of member countries alone.
  • The third principle: Turkey does not have any perception of threat from surrounding countries. It believes in accuracy of the policies it has followed towards neighboring countries up to now. Turkey thinks plans of NATO should also follow this pattern.

To put the possibility of fulfillment of these principles of Turkey under scope, we can make the following evaluations:

Nothing contrary to main purpose of NATO is seen in our approach associated with the first principle. As a military organization based on security of member countries, NATO makes all kinds of threat evaluations within the framework of its strategic concept, and makes predictions concerning what kinds of measures should be taken against the said threats, also establishes and develops measures by operating necessary approval mechanisms. As a NATO member country, Turkey has the same rights entitled to other countries within these mechanisms. Accordingly, Turkey makes a decision in accordance with its national interests and by using its free will on this matter as on all kinds of matters brought to the agenda of NATO. As much as it is understood from above-mentioned statements of Ahmet Davutoğlu, The Minister of Foreign Affairs, it does not seem possible for Turkey to oppose to this action. However, Turkey has certain hesitations, and has tried to reveal these hesitations in the second and third principles.

Issues mentioned in the second principle have two important aspects. The first aspect is that this defense system of NATO should surround all countries. Davutoğlu described this principle as follows: “When this kind of a security structure is built up, no country should be disregarded pursuant to indivisibility of security principle of NATO. Security of all member countries should be taken into consideration and only NATO territory should be covered. What we mean is that: it is not possible to accept a defense perception in which certain regions of Turkey are excluded. And the entire country should be included. It should include the entire territory of all NATO member countries”.

Two separate points are focused on in this statement. The first sentences imply that if this system is to be installed, it should not be structured only through installment in Turkey in order to meet the threat at the furthest point as in deployment of tactical nuclear weapons during Cold War period (NATO Türkiye’deki nükleer silahları sahiplenmedi (NATO did not appropriate nuclear weapons in Turkey, 2009)[2], but include establishment of necessary systems also in other NATO countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Poland (US confirms operation of NATO radar system in Turkey, 2012) ( BMD for the protection of NATO European territory, populations and forces , 2012). As is known, the Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria, which were willing for this kind of a configuration, had to give up due to pressure of Russia. Turkey does not want to become the only country that protects NATO from the far point in the face of this kind of an objection. As a matter of fact, since the fundamental of system is integration of national missile shields of countries within NATO, it is thought that the purpose in this regard can be accomplished.

Another issue stems from the fact that, as stated by Lt. Gen. O’Reilly, four-phase missile defense system to be established for protection of NATO members fundamentally aims at providing a medium and intermediate range ballistic missile defense, which closely concerns Turkey. This means that defense against short-range ballistic missiles stays in the background. In this case, certain problems may be experienced in preventing short-range ballistic missiles that may threaten Turkey, which means that not the entire territory of Turkey will be covered. All configurations of this system should be functional against ballistic missile threat of all sorts of ranges, and Turkey should have a say on this matter. In other words, all kinds of systems to be deployed in Turkey and its surrounding should ensure security in the entire territory of Turkey against short and medium range ballistic missiles (Zanotti, 2011). It is thought that the demand for providing missile defense over the entire territory of Turkey can be technically met. This is because; it is thought that this weakness could be automatically eliminated through intervention at the boost phase of a launched medium and short-range missile, as it is tried to be explained above. The important thing is deployment of early warning radars and interceptors in amounts required by an operation at appropriate locations. Requirements on this matter may impose additional financial burdens on both Turkey and NATO.

At start-up phase of four-phase approach, early warning radar systems have been placed in Kürecik area of Turkey (US confirms operation of NATO radar system in Turkey, 2012). The said radar is a system with a highly advanced ability and with a range of 2300 km. With placement of this radar in Kürecik, not only Iran but also Caucasus and Russia will be kept under observation (Altaylı, 24 March 2012). Thanks to the radar in Kürecik, location capacity and route of the launched missile will be determined, and the prevention system that is closest to threat will be warned. Therefore, it is stated that Kürecik location is highly important for NATO Missile Defense System. It was emphasized that rejection of it would create as much reaction as rejection of The March 1 Memorandum (Altaylı, 24 March 2012). The system will be integrated through completion with interceptors capable of moving, which are placed on ship platform belonging to the USA (Collina, October 2011)[3]. The fundamental of this structure is the tendency of a crisis to uprise between a threatening country and NATO or a NATO member country.  In case of an uprising crisis, the said missiles will be able to be transferred via ships to locations at seas surrounding Turkey where they would meet missiles in the most effective way. Naturally, appearing at the Black Sea may come to the forefront on this matter, and conditions of Montreux Convention[4] may face us as a problem. Even if the consent of Russia is obtained, results of a possible violation of the convention will have to be discussed. It will be quite complicated to clearly determine what kind of a say Turkey will have on the installed systems in such a case.

Additionally, it is considered beneficial that interceptors are located in the region closest to threat. It is fundamental that launched ballistic missiles are destroyed while they are ascending in the territory of the country that has launched them. Otherwise, it is regarded very likely that if they are destroyed late over Turkey, destroyed ballistic missile waste and warhead will fall on the mainland of Turkey, explode there and bring about serious damages.

There is a reaction period of maximum five minutes in order for a launched ballistic missile to be destroyed at boost phase. Therefore, prevention systems should be deployed at maximum 1000 km. distance to threatening ballistic missile bases. Considering that minimum speed of a launched ballistic missile is 1000 m/sec following launch of it, it will take minimum 60 km. per minute, which means that it will cover a range of 300 km. in five minutes after which it will continue its flight path by going up to outer space from the atmosphere. Therefore, geographical position of Turkey seems to be highly important considering the threat indicated. From now on, deployment in Bulgaria and Romania will come to the forefront. It is likely that this purpose will be tried to be accomplished through missile defense systems of the countries, on which they will also a have a say within NATO configuration, as I have explained above.

It is thought that the expression given in the second section of the second principle, “the said systems should be planned only in accordance with needs of member countries. They can take into account some of non-NATO factors, but they can consider non-NATO factors as a security risk, and main focus is only the security of member countries.”  has a deep meaning. Since USA’s own national missile defense system has been integrated with Israel’s national ballistic missile defense system for 20 years, as indicated in the 2009-2010 budget program, Israel’s national defense system will be automatically integrated into NATO system, which is based on the USA’s national missile defense system, indirectly (Parrish, 2010). As is known, Turkey stated its hesitation about share of information held within the scope of NATO with countries that are not NATO members. However, since transfer of this information via the USA’s own national missile defense (NMD) system is covered by a bilateral agreement, it will be tried to be left out of the scope of NATO. Accordingly, desire of Turkey on this matter will be able to be satisfied.

The point indicated in the third principle, “Turkey does not have any perception of threat from surrounding countries.” is regarded as a hesitation that should be taken into consideration in terms of incompatibility with pro-active “zero problem policy” that Turkey tries to follow in its relations with its surrounding countries and in the Middle East in particular (Davutoglu, Turkey’s Zero-Problems Foreign Policy, 2010 20 May).  In fact, upon suggestion that the USA brings Iran forward for missile defense system and even the name of Iran is used in some documents, A. Davutoğlu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said, “What matters for us is NATO documents, and how it takes place within NATO’s defense concept”. With this statement, it was tried to be emphasized that there could be a difference between NATO’s description of threat and the USA’s threat evaluations. As a matter of fact, suggestion of Turkey was accepted, express mention of name of threat in NATO documents was given up.

What is Expected from Turkey within the Framework of NATO’s Missile Defense Concept?

Expectation of the USA and NATO from Turkey concerning integrated missile defense system can be a contribution covering the below-mentioned two layers.

Firstly, although system was basically designed against medium and intermediate range missiles as stated by Lt. Gen O’Reilly above (O’Reilly, October 2009) , it seems to be the best and most effective approach to strike a launched missile at boost and ascent phase regardless of the range of it. Upon examination of the USA’s National Defense Missile Defense (NMD) System, it is seen that the system design is basically built upon destruction of ballistic missiles at midcourse, in other words, during their flight in the outer space, and if this fails, at terminal, that is descent phase (National Missile Defense, 2011) (The Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), 2011). In this case, it can be thought that NMD system is in a need concerning destruction of ballistic missiles at boost and ascent phase. Although the USA was aware of this problem and made individual attempts in 2008 and 2009 in this regard, Turkey did not welcome this suggestion.  Upon that, the USA started to negotiate with Bulgaria and Romania (Sonia Kanikova, 2010). However, during his visit to the USA in July, Bulgarian Minister of Defense stated, “We will fulfill the pecuniary liability on us as a NATO member country. However, our country is not available for placement of missile shield radar equipment technologically, geographically and physically.” (Bulgaristan, Füze kalkanına müsait değiliz (Bulgaria: We are not available for missile shield), 2010). This statement is thought to derive from opposition of Russia (Russia Objects to U.S. Fielding Missile Defenses Close to Border, , 2010). In this case, Turkey becomes the most suitable country against potential threats both politically and geographically. Within this scope, Turkey will be able to provide an ability for USA national missile defense and NATO via configurations to be installed on it.

  • This facility will also constitute a layer that provides first-stage defense for NATO member European countries that face medium-range ballistic missile threat within the concept of NATO’s missile defense concept. If prevention of missiles fails at this phase, interceptors at midcourse layer deployed in various NATO countries in the continent of Europe will be able to step in.
  • Additionally, will the systems to be established in our country under the roof of NATO introduce an ability that can provide defense against missiles that are possessed by enemy countries regarded as a potential threat and aim at territory of our country? Will it be possible to take territory of Turkey under security under the roof of NATO? The main issue is that.

At which part of NATO Missile Defense System is Turkey in?

Technical information related to current missile defense systems should be taken into consideration in order to answer this difficult question. All examinations made by the USA include the approach of how “intercontinental ballistic missile- ICBM” attacks against its own mainland can be prevented. It is tried to configure framework of the system so as to remove all kinds of risks via an architecture aimed at destruction of the threatening ballistic threat at the furthest point at boost phase. This configuration builds up a defense system in the continent of Europe against the potential threat by including NATO countries on one hand, and enables prevention of missiles approaching to it at midcourse phase through deployment of system components in the continent of Europe.

In his description of NATO Missile Defense System, Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director of USA Missile Defense Agency stated that this configuration was basically designed aimed at protection against medium and intermediate range missiles with a range of 1000 – 5,500 that fly through the outer space. Here, no measure is mentioned to be taken against short-range ballistic missiles. It seems doubtful whether the system will be effective against missiles with a range of up to 1500 km. This means that the area from the east of Turkey to Ankara will not be included in the coverage area of this system. It is very likely that this situation constitutes the base of persistence of government during negotiations that “the system to be established should cover the entire territory of Turkey”.

According to evaluations, Turkey is charged with the mission of playing a technical role in two important topics because of closeness of Turkey to threat.

  • Firstly, Turkey will constitute a base for establishment of facilities aimed at destruction of launched ICBM and medium range missiles at the boost phase,
  • Secondly, Turkey will constitute the first ring of radar chain aimed at tracking the enemy missile that fails to be destroyed at boost phase along the midcourse, and transfer information about the ballistic missile to other rings of the chain as early as possible in order for this information to be evaluated and for missile to be tracked and destroyed.

 Inclusion of Turkey at boost phase: The following conclusions were reached in technical examinations carried out by independent examination groups of the USA between 2004 and 2009 (David K. Barton, 5 October 2004):

  • Boost phase is very short for ICBM. It is 3 minutes for solid-fuel missiles, and 4 minutes for liquid-fuel missiles. The said durations are shorter for medium range ballistic missiles. They seem to be less than one minute for short-range missiles. It takes more than 45-60 seconds for interceptors to make calculations necessary for sensing and shooting a launched missile, and to determine flight direction of the enemy missile. The process of deciding to launch interceptors should also be added to this duration. What is meant by deciding to launch is not making a decision to press the button, but issuing an automatic command to firing unit by making technical calculations based on computer software and communication network such as stand-off range of system, height and the number of points where it can strike the launched missile. Therefore, just one shoot can be addressed to enemy missile. This shoot is either via more than one interceptor in the form of salvo or through just one missile. There is no chance to repeat the operation if the launched missile is missed.
  • Anti-rockets should be at a particular distance to enemy missile. This distance is 400 -1000 km. for interceptors deployed on land or at sea. A launched anti-rocket must cover a range of minimum 500 km in order to reach adequate striking velocity.
  • According to evaluations, it does not seem very possible to destroy solid-fuel Sejil missiles of Iran at boost phase(David K. Barton, 5 October 2004). The probability is very low for liquid-fuel ballistic missiles.
  • If a launched ballistic missile is struck at boost phase, it is not possible for it to break into pieces and fall down freely due to high speed it has. A ballistic missile consists of various rocket sections containing fuel to ensure necessary range and a warhead containing necessary nuclear, biological, chemical or classical ammunition. The section with depleted fuel breaks with missile body. A ballistic missile that is struck by an interceptor through hit to kill or explosion nearby is likely to continue to fly due to high speed it has, and starts to descend at a shorter range and/or by deviating from its path. In this case, it is very likely that it will cause damage in the area it falls on if warhead cannot be destroyed. Since it is not possible to destroy warhead of the enemy missile with today’s technologies, it cannot be predicted where and how the struck missile will cause damage. It is possible that a missile struck over the sky of Turkey hits territory of Turkey and warhead of it explodes on territory of Turkey.
  • Apart from that, while boost phase defense seems to be possible against countries such as North Korea that have a narrow mainland, it cannot be effective against countries such as Iran, China and Russia.
  • As a more effective alternative for boost phase defense, Air Born Interceptors (ABI) of maximum 1500 kg weight carrying 40-50 kg. explosives are suggested. In this regard, tests conducted with the 747 aircraft modified by the USA came to be successful. In case of a crisis, these aircraft are required to hang in the air on the basis of 24 hours and to wait at an average distance of 500 km to possible firing point.
  • Experts think that advanced SM-3 missile systems included in the USA’s national missile defense system today are not suitable for use against short-range ballistic missiles and for boost phase prevention.


According to evaluations made above, architecture of NATO Missile Defense System to be installed through current technology does not allow destruction of any ballistic missile at boost phase. Therefore, the system should be supported with interceptors loaded on aircraft and unmanned air vehicles. In addition, since ICBM, long and medium range missiles struck at this phase cannot be destroyed, it is possible that they cause damage on the territory of Turkey due to shortened range they have. This weakness seems to be valid for all kinds of missiles struck at boost phase or midcourse phase.

Placing radars in Turkey, and keeping interceptors on ship platforms at the back:

According to NATO plan, firstly, early warning and tracking radars were placed at Kürecik location in Turkey in 2011. According to initial planning, (Felgenhauer, 2010) (America’s reconfigured anti-missile shield still irks Russia, 2010)[5] interceptors may be deployed in Bulgaria and Romania or on ship platforms at Mediterranean or Blank Sea within the scope of AEGIS system. Turkey will be able to get boost phase information belonging to launched medium, long range or ICBM missiles, and provide necessary information for threatening missile to be destroyed at midcourse phase. As a radar base, Turkey will host facilities undertaking the task of providing necessary information and taking measures against missiles to be addressed to the USA and the continent of Europe. In this case, the contribution of the system to Turkey is, at best, providing defense against missiles moving at a range over 1500 km and threatening Istanbul region. In other words, it will not be effective against Shabab 3 missiles (with a range of 1200 km) including Ankara within its coverage area (The next salvo, America’s reconfigured anti-missile shield still irks Russia , Feb 18th 2010)[6]. We already stated that it could not be effective against short-range missiles.

As much as it is understood, there is no configuration to secure Turkey in the current situation of the architecture of NATO Missile Defense System, which Turkey is forced to participate in. It is considered essential for this weakness to be removed within the scope of The Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) which is being developed by NATO.

What Should Turkey Do?

Turkey needs to install necessary missile defense system to provide its own security against short and medium range ballistic missiles. How will Turkey do that? There are countries making necessary attempts in this regard. The best example is Israel. Then comes Saudi Arabia. This is because they have the same geographical position as Turkey. In other words, they are under the threat of short and medium range ballistic missiles, too. Israel has developed airborne interceptors against short-range ballistic missiles. In this particular, the USA carried out necessary tests on modified Boeing 747 aircraft (Boost-Phase Intercept, 2012). Another solution is the defense via interceptors mounted to unmanned air vehicles during the crisis. Israel constituted its own national system by integrating Arrow missiles it developed with SM-3 systems included in the USA’s national missile defense system through mutual agreement with the USA. Based on the example of Israel, Turkey should look for ways to realize the missile defense system to protect its own territory through cooperation with the USA within the scope of The Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program to be established within the body of NATO. Systems similar to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system of the USA should be established, additionally, missiles loaded on aircraft and unmanned air vehicles should be developed and integrated. As much as it is understood, Turkey noticed this weakness of it and started efforts for developing its own national systems against short and medium range ballistic missiles under the leadership of Aselsan and Roketsan. It can be stated that, thanks to the experience they gained in Pedestal Mounted Stinger project, Turkish defense engineers have necessary national experience on the infrastructure belonging to configurations requiring advanced technology such as command, control and computer software related to early warning and detection technology.

It can be said that it is not a reasonable approach to build up this structure outside the framework of NATO, and a separate cooperation would bring about high costs both politically and economically.

Conclusion and Evaluation

During his visit to Turkey in September 2010, Michael Mullen, USA Full Admiral, stated that possible position of Turkey within the scope of planning of missile shield to be established against threats from threatening countries such as Iran towards South Europe was tried to be determined through negotiations within NATO. He said, “The membership of NATO believes that having a missile defense architecture is a very important capability that needs to be put in place and evolve over time, and there have been discussions with several members of NATO to include Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania in terms of parts of this” (US military chief urges Turkey to help deter nuclear Iran , 2010).

Turkey is a NATO country. Turkey accepted that it should act in accordance with principles and the fifth article (The North Atlantic Treaty, Article 5, 1949): “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them”. Turkey feels compelled to fulfill its part within the scope of measures to be taken against all kinds of potential threats within the framework of Collective Security indicated within New Strategic Concept. As it is tried to be explained above, Turkey has already a suspended desire for configuration. It is seen that radar deployed in Kürecik does not have any benefit to Turkey apart from early warning and tracking data for its own missile defense. It is considered essential for Turkey to establish its own national missile defense system against short and medium range ballistic missile attacks. In this context, it would be a reasonable solution for Turkey to establish its own national missile defense system and include it within NATO’s system integration.



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[1] Hasan Kalyoncu University, Department of Political Sciences and International Relations.

[2]  It is known that these weapons are deployed in Turkey, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

[3] Tom Z. Collina, “System will be completed after assignation of  USS Monterey ship at Mediterranean along with Standard Missile -3 IA anti-missiles”.

[4]Montreux Convention (20 July1936) Article 20.

In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the provisions of Articles 10 to 18 shall not be applicable; the passage of warships shall be left entire y to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

Article 21.Should Turkey consider herself to be threatened with imminent danger of war she shall have the right to apply the provisions of Article 20 of the present Convention.

[5] The Economist, “Russia has an objection on this matter. However, it is stated that SM-3 (Standart Missile-3) interceptors planned to be deployed are effective only against medium range ballistic missiles, and they will not have any effect on international missiles of Russia”.

[6] The Economist, It is obviously expressed in this article of Economist that a small part of Turkey would stay out of the coverage area. slide_5

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