Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Turkey and Russia would jointly produce S-500 defence systems after Ankara’s controversial purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Moscow.
Turkey’s push to buy the S-400s has further strained already tense relations with the United States which has repeatedly warned Ankara of the risks including sanctions as a result of the purchase.
“There is absolutely no question of (Turkey) taking a step back from the S-400s purchase. That is a done deal,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul.
Explaining that Russian military hardware is offered on “very favorable terms” and with no strings attached, Erdogan said that Ankara is also potentially seeking to acquire the next generation S-500 systems – or even engage in co-production partnership – once Russia completes development of its newest mobile surface-to-air missile system.
“There will be joint production of the S-500 after the S-400,” Erdogan told an audience of young people asking questions.
The $2.5 billion defense deal with Moscow enraged Washington, which threatened its NATO ally with all kinds of sanctions while offering to substitute the Russian systems with Patriot batteries – a carrot Ankara has been reluctant to accept. At the same time, Washington threatened to block the delivery of 100 F-35 jets purchased by Turkey, and terminate its participation in the F-35 program. Ankara, having invested $1.25 billion in the trillion-dollar program, is a vital partner, producing parts of fuselage, landing gear, and cockpit displays for the jets.
Ties between NATO allies Turkey and the US have frayed over multiple issues including American support for a Syrian Kurdish militia viewed as terrorists by Ankara and the US failure to extradite a Muslim preacher blamed for the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.
Washington says the deal with Moscow is a threat to Western defence and in April suspended deliveries of the F-35 stealth fighter jet to Turkey in a bid to halt the purchase.
Turkish pilots are in the US receiving training on the F-35s, manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Turkey is expected to buy 100 of the jets in total.
Erdogan said Turkey conducted technical studies amid US concerns over the compatibility of the S-400s and the F-35s but found there were no issues.
He also insisted “sooner or later” Turkey would receive the F-35 jets.
Despite the threat of sanctions, Erdogan repeated that the S-400s were expected to be delivered in July, “but this could be brought forward”, he added.