ANKARA (Dispatches) – A number of Turkish media say, citing the country’s Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, that the S-400 systems delivered by Russia to Turkey last year will become fully operational in April or May this year.
"The training of the personnel for the S-400 systems as well as the deployment of the systems are going as it has been planned. They will become operational in April or May,” Hulusi Akar said as quoted by Turkiye news outlets, Sputnik reported.
Russia and Turkey signed a $2.5 billion deal for the delivery of four S-400 batteries in December 2017. The delivery of all components of the S-400 missile systems to Turkey was completed last year.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
On September 9, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Donald Trump’s administration was considering imposing sanctions on Turkey over purchase of S-400 systems, but no decisions have been made.
Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 in December 2017.
In April 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of the S-400. At the time, it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.
A number of (NATO member states have criticized Turkey for purchase of the S-400, arguing the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.
They also argue that the purchase could jeopardize Ankara’s acquisition of F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in U.S. sanctions.
The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.