First NATO Patriot operational in Turkey
ADANA - Hürriyet Daily News
DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
The first NATO battery in Turkey was made operational in the southern province of Adana at 14:00 local time.
"The system is up and running under NATO control. It's fully integrated into the NATO and Turkish air defense systems," NATO spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Darius Kacperczyk told a group of journalists at the Dutch Patriot battery location in the Seyhan District Command of Adana.
"This NATO-wide deployment is being made based on Turkey's request and is purely defensive in nature. It has been designed to de-escalate the conflict in neighboring Syria and also deter any possible threat to the Turkish population and Turkish territory," he added.
The first of six Patriot missile batteries to become operational was a Dutch unit.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are providing two batteries each of the latest version of the U.S.-made Patriots. The other five Patriot batteries are expected to be in place and operational in the coming days in the İncirlik Airbase of Adana, as well as Turkey's military facilities in Kahramanmaraş and Gaziantep.
Kacperczyk said all six Patriot batteries were expected to be operational by the beginning of February, adding that the remainder, including the German and U.S. batteries, would become operational in the coming days.
"I'm proud to tell you that we're fully operational, ready to protect the people of Adana and the city," said the Dutch commander of the Patriot system in Adana, Colonel Marcell Buis.
"There are five launchers here and in other locations seven launchers are prepared, a total of 12 Dutch launchers," he added.
Asked whether the batteries would protect the Turkish people from the threat of chemical weapons from Syria, Buis said they would be able to protect the people of Adana from ballistic missiles.
"Think of it as a bullet being fired on one side, and we've got a fast bullet that can shoot down the other bullet," he said.
Asked why the batteries were being deployed 300 kilometers away from the Syrian border, given that their range is only 100 kilometers, Major Cengiz Alabacak from the Turkish Air Force said the planning had been made according to the parameters of threat and logistics.
The deployment locations were decided in coordination with Turkey, Lieutenant Colonel Kacperczyk stated.
"There was the advanced group of Dutch, German and U.S. soldiers. They worked with Turkish soldiers on the ground and they jointly decided in which locations we should place the batteries," he said.
"If we look at the locations of all six batteries, they will be able to protect 3.5 million people living in this region," Kacperczyk added.
Turkey requested help from its NATO allies after shells landed on its border areas from Syria in October, killing a number of villagers.
NATO approved the deployment in December, saying the use of ballistic missiles by the Syrian regime posed a threat to Turkey and insisting that the move was purely defensive.
NATO also deployed Patriot batteries to Turkey during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 10 years ago. They were never used and were withdrawn a few months later.