The ninth Russian plane carrying components of the advanced S-400 air defense system landed in Turkey on Monday.
The delivery of the Russian defense systems saw several Antonov-124s land at the Mürted Airbase outside Ankara.
Satellite images released by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat Intl. (ISI) showed two launchers, one crane and five additional auxiliary vehicles. While no S-400 radars were observed by ISI, the firm said it was likely that they would likely arrive on future shipments.
The first delivery of the S-400 began on Friday. Acording to Russia’s TASS news, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the delivery of the advanced air defense system will be completed by April 2020.
“I hope a major part of S-400 components will be delivered by the end of this year, and the entire process will be over by April 2020,” he was quoted by the Haberturk television channel as saying. “After that, we will continue to follow our path with bigger confidence.”
S-400 “Triumf” went into service in Russia in 2007. Designed to shoot down aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles including medium-range missiles, it can also target ground systems.
The S-400 can intercept targets at a distance of 400 km. and at an altitude of up to 60 km., and its radars can detect aerial targets at a distance of up to 600 km. The system’s surface-to-air missiles can strike targets at altitudes of 10,000-27,000 m. and ballistic threats at altitudes of 2,000-25,000 m.
While Turkey has refused to say where it intends to deploy the S-400, the Turkish Defense Ministry said authorities will decide “how it will be used” once the system is operational.
According to Turkish media, over 100 Turkish troops have been sent to Russia to undergo training on the system, and Erdogan said that the “number may be increased 10-fold.”
The NATO member signed the contract with Russia in September 2017 at a cost of $2.5 billion. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated at the time that the deployment of the air defense system could begin in October 2019.
The US has strongly urged Turkey to pull back from the deal, warning that it could face economic sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and be removed from the F-35 project.
A full partner in the F-35 program, Turkey has ordered 30 of the stealth fighter jets and sent pilots to the United States to train on the aircraft.
But Washington has stopped training Turkish pilots on the F-35, and has given Ankara until the end of July to get its personnel out of the US. In April, the Pentagon also stopped the delivery of equipment related to the F-35 stealth fighter jet to Turkey.
The deterioration of ties between Ankara and Washington has led US lawmakers to voice concern that if Russia provides the S-400 to Turkey while it flies the F-35, the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the jet could potentially be conveyed to Russia, compromising it.
Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, stated that all NATO nations have asked Turkey to stop the procurement of the system, and that Ankara refused the American offers of purchasing the Patriot system instead.
“We offered the opportunity to them to buy the Patriot [air defense system] numerous times in a more generous package than we’ve offered anybody else, and they did not sign up for it,” she said.