Turkish forces begin training for S-400 defense systems
"S-400 training started in Gatchina, Russia with the participation of Air Force Command personnel as part of long-range air-and-missile defense system project," Turkey's Defense Ministry said on Sept. 4 in a tweet.
Ankara received its first Russian S-400 missiles in July. The delivery of the first battery was completed on July 25.
The second batch of equipment of the S-400 was received on Aug. 27, and the delivery is slated to continue for around one month, according to Turkey's Defense Ministry.
Sensing that its protracted efforts to purchase an air defense missile system from the ally U.S. was not heading toward success, Turkey in April 2017, signed a contract with Russia to acquire the S-400 anti-missile shield.
Opposing deployment of the Russian system, U.S. officials argued that they would be incompatible with the NATO systems and expose its fifth generation, the state-of-art, F-35 jet, to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, emphasized that the S-400 would not be integrated into the NATO systems, thus had no chance to pose any threat to the alliance or its armaments.
Turkey even asked for setting up of a commission to clarify any technical issues. But U.S. has, so far, not responded to this proposal.
The S-400 system is seen as one of the most advanced missile systems in the world, capable of tracking several targets simultaneously.
S-400s will be ready by April 2020
In the meantime, İsmail Demir, the president of Turkey’s state defense industry institution said on Sept. 4 that the S-400s will be ready at full capacity, including trainings and other activities, until April 2020.
“The procurement first and second batteries will be completed until the end of September and then, the first setup will be finished until the end of 2019. However, when we take training and software works into account, [the S-400s] will be available for use in full capacity in April 2020”, Demir said in an interview with a private broadcaster.
After the initial shipments conclude, the delivery of the second system including the third and fourth S-400 batteries will finalize by the end of 2020, Demir said.
The aerial defense missile systems were a crucial need for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), he added.
“The acquirement of air defense systems has been wanted by all bodies of the TSK for many years,” he said.
Regarding the possible procurement of the Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets, Demir said making such a decision is a long process that depends on many parameters, but Turkey is taking all offers into consideration.
“Purchasing sophisticated systems such as aircraft is not like shopping from a grocery store. It is a process that demands many long talks and analyses. We have made the initial contacts,” he said.
“The Su-35 [fighter jets] can only be an interim remedy. It is not possible for [Su-35] to exactly meet our operational requirements for now. These are fighter jets,” he added.
Demir said that a road map that includes joint works on the fighter jets, while Turkey continues with its own national aircrafts by using the jets’ technology, can be “more sensible.”
“What’s really important here is Turkey’s self-sufficiency and independence. At this point, we need to talk at length about what kind of support the partner-country will provide with which parameters and the benefits that will be acquired,” he added.