Turkey conducted military tests using a Russian air defense system and an American-made fighter jet, in a move US officials described as “concerning.”
Turkish F-16 jets flew over the capital of Ankara as part of a test of the S-400 missile defense system, which the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan purchased from Russia for $ 2.5 billion.
Russia delivered two batteries of the S-400 system to Turkey between July and September.
The S-400s are presently based at Murted Air Base, which is situated just outside the Turkish capital. The testing, which began today, is scheduled to continue through Nov. 26. Reports have indicated that the Turkish S-400s may be fully operational by April 2020.
Turkey has begun tests of the radars associated with its new Russian S-400s using American-made F-16 Viper and F-4 Phantom II fighters, defying warnings from the United States that this “activation” of the surface-to-air missile systems could prompt new sanctions.
“Within the scope of some projects carried out in coordination with the Presidency of Defense Industries, F-16 aircraft and other aircraft belonging to the [Turkish] Air Force will carry out low and high altitude test flights on Monday and Tuesday in the skies of Ankara,” an official statement from Governorate said. There are no details yet on the exact test objectives.
However, video footage of the tests so far show F-16s and F-4s flying over Murted and examples of the 91N6E surveillance and acquisition radar and the 96L6E air search and acquisition radar, the latter elevated on an 40V6M mast, clearly in operation below. The mast-mounted version of the 96L6E is also designed to be better able to detect low-flying targets that a radar positioned right on the ground might not be able to detect through the surface clutter.
The Russian missile system purchase has been a sticking point between Turkey and the U.S. for some time as Washington has argued that the S-400 system would be incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance and rejected stepping back from the deal.