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Turkey’s defense minister avoids revealing whether S-400s actively used

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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said the S-400 missile defense system purchased from Russia at the expense of straining relations with NATO allies has met the country’s needs for air defense without elaborating whether the missile system is actively being used.

Akar was responding to criticism at a session in parliament on Tuesday suggesting that Turkey spent a lot of money on the S-400 system but was not using it.

“Was there an aerial attack and we did not use the S-400s? Some things are national secrets and cannot be revealed. The S-400 air defense system has met our needs, there is no need to hide this,” Akar said.

Despite warnings from the United States and other NATO allies, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brokered a deal worth $2.5 billion with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the S-400 missile system in 2017.

Turkey started taking delivery of the first S-400s in July 2019 despite Washington’s warnings and the threat of US sanctions. In response, Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, in which Ankara was a manufacturer and a buyer.

The S-400, a mobile surface-to-air missile system, could pose a risk to the NATO alliance as well as to the F-35, America’s most expensive weapons platform, according to Turkey’s Western allies.

Washington imposed sanctions in December on Turkey’s military procurement agency for its purchase of the system under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which mandates penalties for transactions deemed harmful to US interests.

Turkey’s Presidency of the Defense Industry (SSB), its chief İsmail Demir and three other officials were targeted by the sanctions, which include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to SSB as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions on Demir and the other individuals.

Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry announced that Turkey has not given up its plans to use its S-400 missile defense system where necessary.

“There is no change in our attitude [regarding the S-400s]. They will be deployed where necessary,” ministry official Maj. Pınar Kara said at a news conference in Ankara.

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