A Russian military cargo plane believed to be carrying parts of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system purchased from Russia arrives at Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey, on Friday. Photo by EPA
July 12 (UPI) -- Turkey on Friday received its first shipment of S-400 missile defense system hardware from Russia, the nation's defense ministry said.
"The first batch of equipment of S-400 missile defense system, which is procured to meet Turkey's air and missile defense needs, has started to arrive at Murted Air Base in Ankara," the ministry said in a statement.
Another jet is due to fly to Ankar with equipment soon, a military-diplomatic source told Russia's state-run TASS news agency.
And a third delivery, which will include "120 anti-aircraft missiles of various types" will be delivered "tentatively at the end of the summer, by sea."
The S-400 Triumph, which became operational in 2007, is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range ones. The S-400 system can hit targets at a distance of round 250 miles and at an altitude up to around 22 miles.
Ankara signed a $2.5 billion deal with the Russian government in April 2017 to the dissatisfaction of the United States, which had warned of repercussions if the deal went through.
The United States has since threatened to impose sanctions against Turkey and cancel sales of U.S.-made F-35 jets as federal officials have voiced concern over Russia gaining access to its fighter aircraft technology.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Fikri Isik has defended the purchase, saying in 2017 as defense minister that Turkey needed a missile defense system and had negotiated with different nations. Russia seemed "the most suitable candidate for fulfilling the country's need at the moment," he said at the time.
"Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities," Turkey's Defense Industry Directorate said Friday, Al Arabiya reported.
Turkish S-400 operators plan to train Turkish military service members this month and in August, according to TASS. In May, about 20 Turkish service members underwent training at a Russian training center.
The United States and NATO have opposed the deal, saying the system is not compatible with NATO's defense network and may expose the F-35 to possible Russian interference.
Turkey has said the S-400 wouldn't be integrated into NATO operability.
"It is up to allies to decide what military equipment they buy," a NATO official told CNN on Friday. "However, we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey's decision to acquire the S-400 system."
He noted that "interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions."
During a visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium late last month, acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said: "If Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400, they will not receive the F-35. It's that simple."
Shanahan sent a letter on June 6 to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that Turkey would be pulled from the F-35 Lightning II jet program -- including sales and the banning of Turkish contractors -- unless Ankara decides not to go ahead with purchasing S-400.
Turkish sub-contractors are helping to build the jets, and Turkish instructor pilots have been training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on four planes earmarked for the nation. And Turkish maintenance personnel are being trained at Eglin AFB, Fla.
The United States could level sanctions against Turkey through penalties mandated by the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This penalizes countries that purchase military equipment from blacklisted firms.
"There is strong bipartisan US congressional determination to see CAATSA sanctions imposed on Turkey if Turkey acquires the S-400," Ellen Lord, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters at the Pentagon last month."
The Pentagon is seeking new parts suppliers to replace those coming from Turkey should it buy the Russian defense system. More than 900 parts for the aircraft, including elements of the landing gear and center fuselage, are produced by Turkish industries.
Lockheed Martin is the primary airframe builder and Pratt & Whitney manufactures the propulsion system.The first F-35 Lightning II rolled out of the Lockheed factory in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2006.
Turkey, which was scheduled to receive its first aircraft later this year, has been among nine partner nations in the program. Six NATO countries have received F-35s: the United States, Australia, Britain, Italy, Norway, Netherlands. Two additional nations that also participated in the aircraft's development -- Canada and Denmark -- are scheduled to receive the aircraft as well.
By early 2020, contracts with major Turkish defense contractors, including Turkish Aerospace Industries, Roketsan and Tusas Engine Industries, would end if the country is pulled from the program, the Pentagon said.
Turkey was interested in buying the U.S. Patriot missile system but was unable to come to an agreement, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Turkey had attempted to purchase the S-400 in 2013 from China, but that deal fell through in 2015 due to NATO disapproval.