Turkey is counting down the hours to receive the S-400 air defense missiles, which have been dispatched from Russia, aviation news site Kokpit reported on Tuesday, citing Russian military and political sources.
Kokpit’s report followed another report from Turkish pro-government outlet Habertürk, which on Monday said the systems had departed a Russian airbase and were set to arrive in Turkey on Monday or Tuesday.
The report arrives amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Ankara over Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 system. U.S. officials have warned that Turkey would face economic sanctions as well as being expelled from a program to produce the F-35 fighter jets if it goes through with the purchase.
The cargo planes carrying the S-400 system have taken off from the western Russian city of Tver, Kokpit said, adding that a Russian technical team that would set up the missile system are slated to arrive in Turkey by the end of Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said the S-400 air defense missiles were being prepared to be flown to Turkey. However, the president fell short of saying when the system would reach Turkey or where they would be deployed.
“The preparations for the journey, the loading [of the S-400] is continuing … The S-400 will arrive by planes,” Erdoğan told reporters prior to leaving for Bosnia.
Soner Çağaptay, a Beyer Fellow and Director of Turkish Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he has heard the delivery is slated for Wednesday.
The United States opposes the S-400 deal since 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.
Ankara maintains that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and would therefore not pose a threat to the alliance.