Installation in Turkey of a Russian-made missile defense system will begin a year from now, in October 2019, according to the Turkish defense minister.
“As of October 2019, installation will begin” of the Russian S-400 system, Hulusi Akar told the Anadolu news agency on Thursday.
“We are currently in the process of selecting personnel.”
“The personnel selected will be sent for training in Russia from the beginning of 2019,” Akar said. “They will receive the necessary training there and then will return to do their jobs.”
Last December Turkey announced it had concluded an agreement with Russia to take delivery of two S-400 systems by early 2020. This April the parties agreed on early delivery.
The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system, with the ability to carry three types of missiles capable of destroying targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.
Akar gave no details about where the Russian systems would be installed, saying the decision has not yet been made by the Turkish Air Forces Command.
In June the US Senate passed a bill suspending delivery of F-35 jets to Turkey, citing the S-400 purchase as well as Turkey’s detention of US citizens.
Saying that the anti-aircraft missile systems will be used independently from NATO systems, Akar said, “We find US and NATO concerns [about the S-400] irrelevant.”
“We would never allow any interference in US or NATO systems,” he said, adding, “This was not a matter of preference [but] one of necessity.”
Akar said Turkey wants to also be a producer, not just a buyer, of these systems, stressing that it will continue working on projects that incorporate Turkish collaboration in production.