Delivery of S-400 systems may be delayed after June: Defense minister
The deployment of the air defense systems “may not reach June, but they will arrive in the following months. The process has started,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said late on May 27 speaking at an interview on HaberTurk broadcaster.
“There are some details about the agreements we have made regarding the procurement of the S-400, within the framework of the contracts. Related institutions, organizations continue to negotiate about them,” the minister said when asked about the deployment schedule.
The minister said Ankara is still considering possible locations to deploy the S-400 systems, Akar added.
In April, Minister Akar said Ankara is expecting to receive Russian S-400 batteries by June. Russian officials earlier stated that they would start deployment of initial parts of the batteries in June.
Elaborating on measures Turkey would take in case of possible sanctions by the United States over Ankara’s procurement of S-400 systems, Akar refused to comment on “assumptions.”
“We are carrying out activities in a way that will completely fulfill the responsibilities given to us,” Akar said, adding that Turkey paid Washington in full for F-35 fighter jets.
Tensions between the United States and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced surface-to-air missile system, which Washington said will jeopardize Turkey’s role in the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program and could trigger congressional sanctions.
Akar said four F-35 fighter jets have already been delivered to Turkey and their activities are ongoing at a base in the United States.
“Training of our four pilots is underway, and hundreds of sergeants got maintenance training and returned [to Turkey],” he said, adding that 37 personnel were recently trained.
The United States has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey’s receipt of the multi-million-dollar fighter jets. Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.
U.S. officials advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s from Moscow, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge. Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.