Turkey’s S-400 systems ‘ready for combat’ by spring, says Russian official

Russia’s S-400 missile defence systems will be operated by the Turkish army no later than the spring of 2020, Dmitry Shugaev, the director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said on Sunday.

Russia will complete the training of Turkish specialists for the systems by the end of 2019, Russian government agency TASS quoted Shugaev as telling reporters at an exhibition in Dubai.

"The contract for the S-400 for Turkey is carried out normally. By the end of the year, we will complete the training of Turkish specialists. By spring, the system will be on combat duty. Everything is going according to plan," the Russian official said.

Shugaev’s statements follow those of the head of the Turkish Defence Industry Directorate, Ismail Demir, who on Saturday said that Turkey purchased S-400 missile defence systems from Russia to use them and not keep them stored away.

Washington has warned Ankara with sanctions over its purchase of the S-400s and removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme, in which it was a customer and a manufacturing partner, in July following its procurement of the Russian systems.

The United States maintains the Russian system is not compatible with Western-made NATO systems. Washington also fears that if the Turkish military operated both the F-35s and S-400s, it would allow Russia to glean sensitive information about the advanced fighter jets.

U.S. President Donald Trump urged his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting between the pair at the White House on Wednesday to drop the S-400 systems. Erdoğan said Ankara could not harm its relations with Russia and reiterated Turkey's desire to buy U.S. Patriot defences in addition to the S-400s.