Turkey received a final batch of CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters from the U.S. on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Turkey said.
The delivery comes amid a dispute between Ankara and Washington over the former's purchase of a Russian-made air defense missile system. The Turkish Land Forces took delivery of four U.S. Boeing CH-47F Chinook helicopters that arrived at the port in the western province of İzmir Wednesday, the embassy said on its social media account. This delivery concluded a process that began in July 2016.
"Turkey now has 11 of the newest and most advanced heavy-lift rotary-wing aircraft available," the embassy said.
The initial agreement with Boeing, an American multinational corporation, on the purchase of 11 helicopters was signed in 2011.
The CH-47 helicopter is a twin-engine, tandem-rotor, a heavy-lift helicopter with 4,868-shaft-horsepower. With a range that can increase to 1,100 kilometers with the help of the fuel tanks, the helicopters can fly safely even at conditions of zero visibility. The helicopters can carry payloads of up to 10 tons in war operations.
Delivery of the helicopters comes amid a dispute between the two NATO allies over Turkey's purchase of S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia.
Since 2017, Turkey and the U.S. have been at odds over Turkey's decision to buy the S-400. U.S. officials urged Turkey to buy the 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. It 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 threatened sanctions over the purchase, with Turkey responding that any sanctions would be met in kind.
Turkish pilots return to Turkey
Earlier last month, Washington announced it was taking Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program, following threats to do so over Ankara's purchase of the S-400 and the Trump administration began the process of removing Turkey from the F-35 program. The exclusion may be complete by the end of March 2020.
Initially having ordered 30 F-35 jets, Turkey intended to buy 116 stealth fighter jets, and the country has already received four of them. However, although Turkey has fulfilled all the necessary financial commitments to the program, its four F-35 fighter jets will not be delivered and the training of the Turkish pilots was suspended.
Turkish pilots and maintenance crew were yesterday expected to start returning from their training in the U.S. Over 40 Turkish pilots and maintenance crew were being trained at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The U.S. move came after Turkey started receiving S-400 components on June 12. The National Defense Ministry last month said the first part of the delivery was completed. As part of the first batch, 30 planeloads of S-400 hardware and equipment were delivered to the capital Ankara from Russia. The delivery is set to continue through April 2020.
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