Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Turkey has signed an agreement with Russia for the purchase of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missiles, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced.
Erdogan has complained that Western weapons were too expensive and has been seeking alternatives. "We are responsible for taking security measures for the defence of our country," he said, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.
Erdogan said that Turkey has already laid down a deposit for the deal, which may cost up to $2.5 billion. Turkey has been seeking to acquire and deploy a new long-range air defense system for some time. U.S. and German Patriot missile batteries, deployed to protect Turkish territory from missile and air threats from the fighting in Syria, were withdrawn in 2015.
The purchase is part of increased military and political ties between Turkey and Russia and gradual estrangement between the key NATO member and Western powers. Turkey has the second largest army in NATO, and members of the alliance are encouraged to buy compatible weapons systems to help coordination and logistics during wartime.
U.S. military support for the Kurdish YPG paramilitary group fighting in Syria, which is closely linked to Kurdish insurgents fighting the Turkish government, has specifically angered Turkey.
The S-400 Triumf, also known by its NATO designation SA-21 Growler, is a mobile, long-range surface-to-air missile system manufactured by the Russian state firm Almaz-Antey. It is a development of the S-300 series of surface-to-air missiles and was first deployed with Russian forces in 2007.
The S-400 is designed to engage aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise and ballistic missiles. Its standard missile has a range of over 150 miles and carries a 315-pound warhead.
A extended range version of the missile has been developed that theoretically gives the system a range of up to 250 miles, though it is unclear if the S-400's radar is capable of engaging targets at that distance. An anti-ballistic missile using "hit-to-kill" kinetic velocity to destroy incoming ballistic missiles is currently under development.
Turkey is the latest country to agree to purchase the S-400. China and India have both signed agreements to acquire large numbers of the missiles.