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Turkish defense minister says purchase of Russian S-400s not a preference but a must

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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system is not a matter of preference but a must, the Diken news website reported.

Speaking on the Anadolu news agency’s “Editor’s Desk” program on Friday, Akar said: “There is an ongoing process for the purchase of the S-400s, and the system will begin to be installed as of October. Our buying of the S-400s is beyond a preference – it’s a must.”

Turkey announced in December 2017 that it had concluded an agreement with Russia to take delivery of two S-400s, Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system.

US and NATO officials have repeatedly warned Ankara that the S-400s cannot be integrated into NATO’s air and missile defense systems and that their purchase would put at risk Ankara’s purchase of 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets from the US.

The Russian S-400 was designed to shoot down US aircraft at greater ranges and altitudes than older systems. US officials are concerned that sensitive F-35 technology designed to evade such a system could be compromised and used to improve the Russian air defense system if Turkey takes possession of both systems, according to a previous Bloomberg report.

US officials have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a $3.5 billion Raytheon Co Patriot missile package.

Akar said Turkey is trying to find a way to avoid an interaction between F-35s and the S-400S, adding that his country is fulfilling its responsibilities as  a NATO member perfectly.

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