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‘Stop Me If You Can’; After S-400s, SU-57s, Turkey Could Explore Chinese, Russian Missiles?

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Amid the ongoing fight for power in the East Mediterranean, Turkey has warned the western world that despite the procurement of the Russian-made S-400s, it will look to add more missiles from other nations to enhance its military might.

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In what is more than a subtle hint to President Donald Trump, who suspended Ankara from the F-35 stealth fighters program for purchasing S-400 defence missile systems, Turkey has warned that it will continue to garner weaponry from other nations if its traditional allies refused to sell to them.

Last year, Erdogan had stated that Turkey may buy Russian-made Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets instead of US-made F-35 fighters. The Turkish president at the time said that the decision was made after he learned the final US word on Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program during a phone conversation with US President Donald Trump. 

File:SOM cruise missile mockup on MSPO 2014.jpeg - Wikimedia Commons

SOM cruise missile mockup

Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, while speaking in an interview on Thursday (September 03) said – “If you don’t want me to buy it from elsewhere, then you need to sell it.” If you don’t, we’ll continue to buy from elsewhere.

Today, this can be the S-400. Tomorrow, there will be another system. It doesn’t matter.”

Despite repeated warnings from the United States over Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 missiles, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refused to budge and secured the deal worth $2 million, in order to boost their defensive capabilities to a two-fold, forcing the US to bar them from the F-35 Fighter Jet Programme.

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According to Erdogan, the decision to expel Ankara was announced to him during a phone conversation with Trump, who fears that the stealth jets which are specifically designed so as to evade such anti-aircraft systems, will be compromised if they are simultaneously acquired by Turkey.

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The United States defended their decision thereafter, labeling how the “F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities”. In a statement issued by the White House, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said,

       “Unfortunately, Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defence systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible. The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defence solutions to meet its legitimate air defence needs, and this administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the US Patriot air defence system.”

       Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and Nato ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all Nato allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems.”

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The S-400 surface-to-air missiles are considered to be one of the most advanced of its kind, even for the ilk of the Russians, as they are specially designed to track untraceable, stealth technology deployed by the likes of advanced aircraft like the F-35s, and can destroy targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers, at a height of up to 30 kilometers.

While the F-35 jets are 5th generation stealth aircraft considered far superior to any of its nearest rivals, the S-400s are built to just beat that and are compared to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) of the US, with most experts still ranking former the best defence systems in the world.

This is one of the reasons why the US has refused to cut back any pressure on Turkey, who they have threatened to put sanctions on. However, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu has suggested that Ankara’s decision to buy the Russian-made missiles may be repeated or upgraded.

     “The Turkish military needs upgrades far beyond the scope of its current purchase of an advanced S-400 system from Moscow.” said Cavusoglu

With the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies US and Turkey, engaged in a battle of Russia’s increased involvement in the affairs of the Middle East, there is already a deal with Russia for a second S-400 battery, which will be produced jointly by the two nations, and Cavusoglu has hinted that Turkey won’t stop just there.

     “We need more than two batteries. Two, three, five [batteries] until we produce this ourselves,” said Cavusoglu.

Having signed an agreement to jointly produce missiles and receive intelligence on how to develop its own defensive systems, along with its own indigenously made drones to end their dependence on the ones from Israel, Turkey has been striving hard to assert its military independence, a move seen by the US as quite a challenge.

Mansij Asthana

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