Turkey will start installing Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in October 2019, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday.
"We are currently selecting personnel. Those who are selected will be sent to Russia for training," Akar said.
Regarding the F-35 warplanes as part of a joint program with the U.S., Akar said he did not expect any problems with the delivery of the aircrafts.
Referencing Ankara's rift with the U.S. over the S-400 deal, Akar said that when taking into account the current political climate and military situation experiencing such an unfavorable row again was highly unlikely.
Talking about the airfield in Malatya where the F-35s will be stationed, Akar said the project was continuing without a problem.
"The project is going according to the plan. Third and fourth planes will be delivered in March next year," he said.
In September, Turkey agreed to buy two S-400s in a deal worth over $2 billion. Officials from Ankara have repeatedly said that the purchase of the S-400 systems was prompted to fulfill the country's security needs.
As a NATO member country, Turkey's decision to buy the Russian S-400 systems has raised concern among other NATO member countries. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ended speculations, saying member states have the sovereign right to make decisions regarding their military purchases.
The U.S. has expressed concern that Turkey's planned deployment of the S-400s could risk the security of some U.S.-made weapons and other technology used by Turkey, including the F-35s.
In early August, U.S. President Donald Trump approved a defense budget law delaying delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to Turkey. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), quickly approved by Congress, prohibits F-35 sales to Turkey until the Pentagon issues a report on Turkish-American relations in 90 days.
Still, the F-35 Joint Program Office announced on Aug. 16 that it would continue to execute current program plans with all partners, including Turkey, and abide by any future policy guidelines.
The S-400 missile defense system is Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system and can carry three types of missiles capable of destroying targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.
The system can track and engage up to 300 targets at a time and has an altitude ceiling of 27 kilometers (17 miles). With the purchase of the S-400s, Ankara aims to build Turkey's first long-range air and anti-missile defense system to guard against threats in the region.
Moreover, Turkey seeks to build its own missile defense systems as the deal also involves the transfer of technology and know-how. The S-400 system, which was introduced in 2007, is the new generation of Russian missile systems, and so far Russia has only sold them to China and India.
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