Russia’s first shipment of S-400 anti-air missile systems has arrived in Turkey, which could signal Turkey’s exit from Lockheed Martin’s advanced F-35 fighter jet programme.
Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence announced the delivery today, which risks causing unease among NATO countries who called for Turkey to end military cooperation with the Russian government.
The first components of the S-400 landed on Friday in Ankara. Turkey is set to deploy the system along the border it shares with war-torn Syria.
Before announcing the arrival of the parts the US Air Force had already halted the training of Turkish pilots in F-35s in protest.
President of Turkey Recep Erdogan pushed forward with the acquisition despite repeated pushbacks from the US who wanted the country to buy the Patriot missile system instead.
The Turkish defence directorate said: “The delivery of parts belonging to the system will continue in the coming days,
“Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities.”
The White House has repeatedly taken a hard line against Turkey for buying the system. The US told the Turkish government that it cannot invest in both the Russian S-400 system and the ongoing F-35 programme.
NATO countries believe that the Russian missile system would be incompatible with existing defence infrastructure and could allow Russia to access secret F-35 information. The S-400 includes advanced radar designed to detect stealth fighters like the F-35.
Speaking to CNN a NATO spokesperson said: “It is up to allies to decide what military equipment they buy. However, we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey’s decision to acquire the S-400 system.
“Interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions.”
Erdogan said: “They should think deeply because losing a country like Turkey will not be easy.
“If we are friends, if we are strategic partners, then we should handle this issue between each other.”
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the US is mandated to impose sanctions on any country making an arms deal with Russia. The law states that President Trump must apply at least five sanctions on Turkey.
The US is also considering applying sanctions on India through CAATSA as the Asian country has also bought the S-400 system. India is set to receive its first delivery of the system late next year.