Turkey receives first components of Russian S-400 system

Turkey received the first components of the Russian S-400 missile defense system on Friday, according to Turkish officials. The move will further strain ties with Ankara’s NATO allies in Washington.

“First batch of equipment of S-400 missile defense system, which is procured to meet Turkey’s air and missile defense need, has started to arrive at Murted Air Base in Ankara as of July 12, 2019,” Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Twitter.

“The delivery of parts belonging to the system will continue in the coming days,” Turkey’s Defence Industry Directorate said. “Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities.”

The Pentagon will review mechanism of operations at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey amid the S-400 developments, a US department of Defense source told US-based Al-Hurra TV on Friday.

Located in southern Turkey inland from the Mediterranean Sea, the US and other militaries have used the facility for Middle Eastern operations since the 1950s. Currently the US Air Force has about 5,000 airmen deployed there.
It is likely the United States will announce a formal halt of its delivery of F-35s to Turkey, amid fallout over the start of the S-400 deliveries on Friday.

Acting US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is expected to speak with Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Friday. On Thursday, Al-Monitor Pentagon correspondent Jack Detsch reported the Pentagon is likely to reprogram $206 million in funding for the fifth-generation fighter jet program to offset the change.

The US has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it presses ahead with the purchase. Washington says the missile system is incompatible with NATO hardware, including the new Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, which Turkey is helping to build and plans to purchase.

The US had urged Turkey to buy its Patriot variant, warning the Russian technology could compromise NATO defense systems.

At the G20 summit last month, US President Donald Trump met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the issue. Although Trump did not rule out sanctions, he said Ankara had not been treated fairly.

In a statement issued on July 10, Hami Aksoy, spokesman for the Turkish Defense Ministry, urged the US not to harm their bilateral relations.

“From the very beginning, Turkey has shown a transparent approach on this matter. We have proposed to establish a technical working group, that could include NATO, to address US concerns regarding the potential effects of the S-400 system on F35s. However our proposal has been left unanswered so far.

Russian aircraft carries the first batch of a S-400 missile defense system at Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey on July 12, 2019 Photo: TSK/AA handout

“We call upon the US side to refrain from taking wrong steps, that would harm relations, by excluding diplomacy and dialogue.”

Turkey’s economy is in a delicate state and could be pushed into recession if the US imposes sanctions.

News of the delivery caused the Turkish lira to sink from 5.683 against the dollar to 5.712, Reuters reports.