Turkey continued to receive components for the Russian S-400 missile defense system Tuesday as more planes carrying hardware and other parts landed in Ankara.
The deliveries are being made to Mürted Air Base, which is located on the outskirts of the capital and was used as a base by putschist soldiers during the failed coup on July 15, 2016. On its official Twitter account, Turkey's Defense Ministry shared a photo of a Russian plane that was carrying the hardware.
"The 12th plane landed at the Mürted airfield," the ministry tweeted, adding that "the delivery of the S-400 long-range air defense system is ongoing."
It was the third aircraft that delivered the components for the defense system within the day. The long-awaited deliveries began Friday when the first batch of equipment, procured to meet Turkey's air and missile defense needs, arrived at the air base in Ankara.
A Turkish military team has been training in Russia since May, and the training was initially planned to last five months. It was earlier reported that the system would be assembled at Mürted by a joint Turkish-Russian technical team and installed in several locations across Turkey that are yet to be determined.
U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to become the next secretary of defense called Turkey's decision to buy Russia's S-400 air defense system "disappointing," in remarks that break days of administration silence about the move by the NATO ally.
"They have been a long standing and very capable NATO ally, but their decision on the S-400 is the wrong one and it is disappointing," said Army Secretary Mark Esper, testifying Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services.
Turkey's decision to purchase the Russian-made defense system as a member of NATO was precipitated by mounting security concerns because of developments on the country's doorstep. The Ankara-Moscow S-400 deal was inked in December 2017, when the parties signed a $2.5 billion agreement for two batteries of the S-400, which is Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system in use since 2007.
The contract with Russia came after lengthy efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success. In recent months U.S. officials urged Turkey to buy U.S. Patriot missiles, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose U.S. F-35 fighter jets to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Turkey has urged the formation of a commission to clarify any technical issues, but the U.S. has failed to respond to this proposal. The U.S. has also threatened sanctions over the S-400 purchase, with Turkey responding that any sanctions would be met in kind.
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