Turkey has taken delivery of the first parts of its S-400 air defense missile system from Russia, the defense ministry said on Friday, July 12.
The components were delivered to the air base in Murted near the capital Ankara on Friday, the ministry said.
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) July 12, 2019
On Tuesday, Haberturk reported that the S-400 system was loaded onto two cargo planes and was set to depart from an airbase near Tver for Turkey in the evening.
Turkey signed a deal to purchase the S-400 system in September 2017 when an advance payment was made, but the sale has long been contentious.
In April, the U.S. said it was halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 stealth fighter jet program and warned that Turkish participation in the manufacture of the aircraft was at risk.
Concerns have been raised by Turkey’s NATO allies about data security with the S-400 system, particularly around the F-35. Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) wants to connect the F-35 systems with the Turkish Air Force information network, HvBS. If the S-400 is also connected to the HvBS, there is a risk that data collected by the advanced Joint Strike Fighter’s sensors may end up being transmitted to Russia.
There are also fears that F-35s flown in Turkey could be detected by its own S-400 radar systems, and that data sent to Russia could be used to improve detection and targeting of the stealthy F-35 by Russian equipment.
Over the past five years, NATO has deployed up to six Patriot missile defense batteries to protect Turkey’s southern border against missiles fired from Syria. On April 2, then-Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he was confident that Turkey would drop its plan to purchase the S-400 and buy the U.S. Patriot system instead.
That would then allow the F-35 program to continue, he said.
The F-35 program is a consortium of nine countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States – who all bid for competitive contracts to develop and manufacture parts for the jet. Turkey paid $125 million at the outset of the program and is slated to purchase up to 100 F-35s (30 have already been ordered).
Turkish companies are sole-source producers of certain F-35 engine components as well as secondary producers of the fighter’s fuselage.
On July 4, Italy’s lower house of parliament approved the extension of the deployment of its Eurosam SAMP-T air defense missile system in the southeastern Kahramanmaras province until the end of the year.
A week earlier, Spain similarly extended the deployment of its U.S.-made Patriot air defense missile system in Adana province. Both were deployed after Turkey requested help from NATO, and the alliance must formally approve the extension, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The U.S. Department of State cleared a possible $3.5 billion sale of Patriot air defense systems to Turkey in December, but the previous month, although the Department of Defense had warned that that acquisition, along with those of CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopters, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft could be affected by its going ahead with the S-400 purchase.
Then-Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said in November 2017 that Turkey agreed with Eurosam to develop an air defense missile system and to own the technology with Turkey’s “own local resources.” Canikli signed a letter of intent with the defense ministers of France and Italy that month, paving the way for Turkey’s purchase of Eurosam SAMP-T launcher systems and Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles.
Turkey is also developing its own HISAR short-range, low-altitude air defense missile system intended to target aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.