A senior Turkish official says the delivery of a second batch of Russian S-400 missile defense systems may be postponed beyond a planned 2020 timeline after bilateral talks on technology sharing and joint production.
“We are planning a timeline for next year. As opposed to the first (batch), there is joint production and technology transfer here. It is beyond the ‘let’s buy it quickly and install it’ of the first system,” Ismail Demir, head of the Turkish Defense Industries Directorate, said on Monday.
“The joint production concept may move the timeline. We have some sensitivities regarding some of the production being here. Technical work continues,” Demir added.
The Turkish official also underscored that Ankara was still open to Washington’s offers to buy US Patriot missile defense systems as long as the proposal met Turkey’s conditions.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced in a statement on September 15 that the delivery of the second battery of S-400 missile defense systems has been completed at Murted Airfield Command, located 35 kilometers (22 miles) northwest of the capital Ankara, and that the systems would become operational in April 2020.
The first part of the S-400 delivery was completed in late July. Russia delivered 30 planeloads of S-400 hardware and equipment – as part of the initial batch – to Murted Airfield Command.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.
Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4-billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.
Ankara weighing Russia’s Su-35 fighter jet offer
Also on Monday, the Turkish official said Russia had offered to sell Turkey its Su-35 fighter jets and that Ankara was “evaluating” the offer.
“There is an offer and we are evaluating it. There cannot be such a thing as ‘we’re buying tomorrow’ in such matters. The offer’s financial and strategic aspects will be examined, there cannot be an immediate decision,” Demir said.
“It would not be right to say ‘the F-35 era is closed, the Su-35 era is beginning’, but we will evaluate the offer,” he said.
Media reports have recently suggested that Turkish and Russian officials are discussing the details of the sale of a total of 36 Su-35 fighter jets to Turkey.
The reports also claimed that officials were discussing Turkey’s possible involvement in the production of some components of the fighter jets, including its precision weapons and ammunition.