Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reiterated his country’s need for the highly advanced Russian S-400 missile system, a planned purchase the US opposes.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for military officers, the Turkish leader said Ankara would try to procure the missile system as soon as possible.
The S-400, touted by experts to be one of the most advanced systems in the world, can engage multiple aerial targets within a 400 kilometre range.
NATO circles view Turkey’s intended purchase of the Russian-made equipment with suspicion, as it is believed to be incompatible with the systems used by the alliance.
Earlier this month, Russia said the S-400 missiles would be delivered to Turkey in 2019.
US military officials and politicians have expressed concerns over Turkey’s intention to buy the Russian system, and the purchase comes amid a growing rift between Turkey and its NATO allies.
The US imposed sanctions against Turkey earlier this month in an effort to force the release of a US pastor who Ankara claims is linked to plotters of a failed 2016 military coup.
Turkey, which has until now relied on Patriot batteries from NATO for its air defence, has been looking to procure its own system for years.
In 2012, Ankara requested air defence support against threats posed by missiles from neighbouring Syria.
Responding to the request, several NATO allies contributed missile batteries to augment Turkey’s air defence. But the vast majority were withdrawn in 2015, despite Ankara’s concerns over the security of its border.
Turkey is not the only country buying the state-of-the-art S-400 from Russia.
On Thursday, the US said it might consider sanctions against India if it purchases the missile defence system.
Washington has warned that any country engaging in defence or intelligence sharing with Russia could be subject to sanctions.
At the same event, Erdogan said Turkey also needs F-35 stealth fighter jets, which will be bought from the US.
However, after relations between the US and Turkey worsened, Erdogan said that Ankara would look at other vendors, if the US delayed delivery.
In 2014, Ankara placed a buy order of about 100 jets to replace its current F-4 and F-16 fleet.
Several US legislators have objected to the planned sale over concerns including Turkey’s plans to buy the S-400.