ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish military transported Oct. 5-6 its first batch of the Russian-made S-400 to the Black Sea port of Sinop, where the country plans to test the long-range air defense system’s capabilities, a Turkish military source confirmed to Defense News.
The S-400 will be tested at the Sinop test field, and the city’s civil aviation authorities have banned all flights between Sinop and Unyem, east of the test field, at an altitude of less than 25,000 feet.
Officials reported the S-400 will be fired eastward during the tests.
The batteries were transported to Sinop on eight-wheel drive military trucks. Military officials said a batch of 10 U.K.-made Banshee target drones were also transported to Sinop for the tests.
Turkey first tested the S-400 air defense system on American-made F-16 fighter jets in November. The first batch of the system was delivered to Ankara in July 2019. Turkey and Russia are currently negotiating the purchase of a second batch based on co-production or off-the-shelf purchase with technology transfer.
Turkey agreed to the $2.5 billion S-400 acquisition at the end of 2017. It said it would activate the system in April 2020.
Under pressure from its NATO allies, most notably the United States, Turkey silently postponed the activation process, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the S-400 purchase, Washington has suspended Turkish partnership in the American-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program that builds the F-35 fighter jet. The U.S. also threatened to sanction Turkey if it activated the air defense system.
“When to activate … such a critical air defense system … that is a matter not to be disclosed to the public," said Ismail Demir, Turkey’s chief defense procurement official. “How much of the system has been activated? Such questions do not comply with a country’s geo-strategic deliberations.”
Burak Ege Bekdil was the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.