Russia will have no access to Turkish S-400s: Official
Russia will have no access to the S-400s after all the technical procedures are completed, the head of the Turkish Defense Industry has said, describing this as a “red line” concerning ongoing cooperation with the Russians on the air defense systems.
“Russian personnel will not have a free hand in accessing the S-400 batteries although training, maintenance and technical support are part of the procurement agreement [with Russia]. This is our red line. The Turkish Air Forces and Turkish companies will be those who have access to the systems,” İsmail Demir, the chairman of the Presidency Defense Industries, told reporters at an online meeting on April 7.
Turkey deployed the S-400 systems from Russia in mid-2019 and was supposed to activate them in April 2020. Ankara has announced that the activation was delayed due to the coronavirus, but the process will move forward as planned, despite strong objections from the United States. Washington threatens Turkey with congressional sanctions and has already frozen its participation in the F-35 joint fighter project.
According to Demir, the installation process of the S-400s still continue and some of the systems have already been put into use. A new timetable to activate the S-400s would be drawn up once operations are back to full capacity after the outbreak, he was also quoted as saying by Reuters.
Turkey still produces parts of F-35 jets
The chief of the Turkish Defense Industry informed that Turkey is still producing and delivering parts for the U.S. F-35 jets despite being suspended from the program nearly over a year ago.
“There was an understanding in the United States that nothing would be bought from Turkey for the F-35s after March 2020, but that approach is no longer there,” Demir said. He suggested the global coronavirus pandemic meant the March deadline no longer applied.
“Our companies continue their production and delivery,” Demir said, adding that Turkey remained a “loyal partner” to the F-35 program.
Taking Turkey out of the project would cost other members of the program up to $600 million, he said.
Washington announced last July, when the first Russian S-400 units arrived in Turkey, that it was suspending Ankara from the F-35 program and expected to “wind down” Turkey’s involvement by March 2020.
The United States also said the purchase meant Turkey could be subjected to sanctions under U.S. legislation aimed at discouraging defense purchases from Moscow.
Turkey was both a parts manufacturer and major buyer of the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth jets. Washington says the S-400s jeopardize the jets - which Ankara denies - and are incompatible with NATO defense systems.