Turkey says Russian S-400 systems installation to begin October 2019
Turkey will begin works for the deployment of the Russian made S-400 air defense systems by October 2019, the defense minister has said, informing that selected military personnel will be sent to Russia for training on how to use the sophisticated anti-ballistic weapons.
“As a result of the deal signed with Russia, the process has begun. By October 2019, works for the deployment of these systems will begin. We are in a process of selecting the military personnel. The selected personnel will be sent to Russia for training by the beginning of 2019. They will get the necessary training there and then will take up their position,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told state-run Anadolu Agency in an interview on Oct. 25.
Earlier statements by both countries suggested July 2019 as the date of the deployment of these systems into Turkey.
Despite strong criticism from the United States, Turkey had signed a deal for the purchase of $2.5 billion worth S-400 anti-ballistic systems from Russia. The U.S. had urged Turkey with sanctions if it deploys these systems on the grounds that it could lead to security problems with regard to other NATO weaponry systems, particularly the F-35 aircrafts.
The minister said studies on where these systems would be deployed are still by the Air Forces Command in consideration with from where the missile threats are likely to come.
“Therefore, we think concerns voiced by the U.S. or NATO are baseless. We will never allow any disturbance or abuse towards the U.S. or NATO systems. [Purchasing S-400s] was not an option but an obligation,” he said, adding that the system would not be interoperable with existing NATO systems.
Turkey is still waiting for responses from the manufacturers of U.S. Patriot systems and Italian-French SAMP/T systems, the minister recalled, underlining that Turkey’s condition in defense industry cooperation requires sharing technology and know-how.
“We will continue to cooperate with countries that want to cooperate with us,” he said, adding that Turkey no longer wants to be a purchaser but also a producer.
No negative developments on F-35s
On the ongoing Turkey-U.S. bid over F-35 stealth aircrafts, Akar recalled U.S. President Donald Trump had demanded the Pentagon to report within 90 days over the Turkish contribution to the joint production of the aircraft.
“According to our estimations, the deadline for this report is Aug. 13. The U.S. Secretary of Defense will submit the report until Nov. 13 through consultations. This is ongoing. On the other hand, there have not been any changes in the [production] process. Two F-35s were delivered to us in June. Four of our pilots have already been deployed to the U.S. for necessary training. Plus, around 50 non-commissioned officers are also there for maintaining training,” Akar said.
Third and fourth aircrafts are expected to be delivered in March 2019, the minister informed, also saying that works in the Malatya air base where they will be stationed have also been accelerated.
“Our hope, wish and expectation is that works will continue [on the F-35s] without any changes,” he said, expressing his expectation that the Pentagon report will not be a negative one.