Giving up on S-400s ‘out of question,’ says defense minister
The Turkish defense minister has said Turkey will not back out of the Russian S-400 air defense systems it procured over the summer of 2019 and is in contact with its NATO allies, particularly the U.S., regarding a solution.
“We repeatedly reiterate that the U.S. is our strategic partner and we expect them to act in accordance with the spirit of strategic partnership. There is no such thing as giving up on this system anymore,” Hulusi Akar told state-run Anadolu Agency in a Dec. 8 interview, which was published on Dec. 11.
“We need to focus on finding a solution with the existence of this system,” he added.
The minister also said that Turkey continues its relationships with all parties to manage the disputes caused by Ankara’s S-400 purchase.
Turkey procured the S-400s in a bid to defend its nation and country, he added.
Akar also unveiled some technical details about the S-400 systems.
He said that the delivery of an S-400 fleet, consisting of two batteries, has been completed. The batteries’ installation process continues, he added.
“The installation is not in terms of its location. These will be installed, and its works and test will be done,” he said.
Akar also conveyed that the training of military personnel for the usage of S-400s continues but is expected to be completed by the end of December. The military officials will also undertake additional training by Russian instructors, he added.
“Those instructors will come and continue to train the personnel in Turkey, and probably, in the spring of 2020 this installation will take place and activities will start to be carried out,” he said.
Ankara and Moscow are also in talks for a second fleet of S-400s, the minister said. He added that Turkey has some criteria such as technology transfer, joint production, and joint exportation.
He also underlined that Turkey is currently working to build an indigenous air defense system such as Hisar, a low- and medium-altitude missile systems, and Siper, a long-range missile system.
“Our works continue from two sides; the procurement of S-400s and works for indigenous production,” he said.
Tensions rose between Ankara and Washington when the former decided to acquire the S-400s. While the U.S. says the Russian system poses a threat to its F-35 fighter jets, Turkey has repeatedly said the procurement will not be a problem for the program.
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.
Washington has warned that Ankara will face sanctions over its purchase of the S-400s, and has suspended Turkey from the F-35 program, in which it was a customer and manufacturer.
It has yet to impose any sanctions on Turkey, which began receiving the Russian systems in July.