Despite beliefs that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a major role in US President Donald Trump’s appointment back in 2016, it is only ironic how Moscow has continued to remain a thorn for the Trump administration with the S-400 defence missiles systems right at the centre of it.
Russia has created huge diplomatic turbulence for the US with the supply of the advanced missiles be it China, India or most importantly Turkey which was considered a strategic partner for the Pentagon in the joint development of the advanced F-35 fighter jet program.
To add fuel to the fire, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly sanctioned the use of the S-400 surface-to-air missiles (SAMS) against the F-16 Falcon fighter jets, aimed at garnering necessary intelligence on the Pentagon and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.
The S-400s, considered to be the most advanced of their kind, are specially designed to track untraceable stealth technology deployed by the likes of advanced aircraft like the US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets, which are the most sought after warplanes in the world.
While there has been no encounter between the two pieces of modern machinery, the S-400s are considered far superior to their American counterparts Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD), with the former the only defensive systems capable of finding a weakness in the modern armoury of the fifth-generation F-35s.
Turkey was ousted from the F-35 fighter jet program by the US after failing to adhere to warnings by the Trump administration against the purchase of the S-400 systems, with the Pentagon fearing that Turkey could use the technology to find weaknesses in the F-35s and leak that to its allies, especially Russia.
However, while the US may like to believe that its stealth fighters like the F-35s and F-22 Raptors are safe from being tracked by the formidable Russian missile systems, for the time being, the same however cannot be said about the F-16 Falcons.
According to reports, the Turkish Army had deployed the S-400 systems in the Black Sea province of Samson during the Eunomia Military Exercises held recently, where the air forces of Greece, Italy, France and Cyprus took part.
As per sources during the exercise, Turkey managed to track an F-16 jet belonging to Greece’s Hellenic Air Force (HAF). According to former Deputy Commander of the Air Defense Forces of the USSR Ground Forces, Lieutenant General Alexander Luzan,
“During the test of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, the Turkish military discovered aircraft and carried out so-called electronic launches on them. This allows us to simultaneously study the features of the application, evaluate the effectiveness, perhaps another goal was to find the weaknesses of the system.”
Following reports of the incident, on Wednesday (October 07) two US Lawmakers Sens. Chris Van Hollen and James Lankford, R-Okla wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding to verify the local news reports and urging the administration to impose long-delayed sanctions on Turkey for acquired the systems.
“Reports of this activation make clear that Turkey has no intention of reversing course and divesting of this system. Turkey’s recent reported activation of the S-400 system to detect the U.S. F-16 underscores our grave concerns about Russia’s ability to access sensitive data,” said the letter sent to Pompeo.
The latest developments add to pre-existing tensions between Washington and the NATO ally, which serves as a pivotal location for American troops conducting operations in both the Middle East and Europe.