Turkey’s S-400 decision in 10 questions

Turkey chose to purchase Russia’s air defense system to protect its airspace from potential threats

Zuhal Demirci  | 09.03.2019 - Update : 10.03.2019
Turkey’s S-400 decision in 10 questions


Following a negative response from the U.S. regarding the sale of its Patriot missile defense system, Turkey evaluated Russia’s offer and decided to purchase the S-400 air defense system.

Turkey began diversifying its air defense systems to protect its airspace from threats, especially after the spillover effects of the Syrian war, which has been taking place on Turkey's borders since 2011.

Turkey expects delivery of the Russian system by July 2019.

The following 10 questions summarize Turkey’s decision to purchase the S-400 air defense system:

1- Why is Turkey purchasing an air defense system?

In order to reinforce its air and missile defense systems against ballistic missile threats, Turkey requested cooperation from NATO.

Since 2013, NATO ally countries have deployed Patriot missiles in Turkey’s southern city of Adana and the SAMP-T air defense system in the southern province of Kahramanmaras.

But such a temporary solution would be inefficient to meet Turkey’s air defense requirements, so it began creating its own air defense systems to protect its airspace from threats.

The Syrian war unfolding on Turkey's borders since 2011 has increased Turkey’s national security needs.

2- Why does Turkey want to purchase the S-400 system?

Prioritizing airspace security, Turkey responded positively to Russia’s offer and purchased the S-400 air defense system.

By adding the S-400s to its military inventory, Turkey aims to protect its airspace from potential threats and heighten border security by modernizing its defense infrastructure.

3- What are the technical specifications of the S-400 system?

The S-400 air defense system was designed to destroy warplanes, command and control planes, scout planes, strategic and tactical aircraft, operational-tactical and mid-range ballistic missiles, hypersonic targets and other advanced airstrike vehicles.

The system, which is capable of engaging short-, medium- and long-range missiles simultaneously, can identify targets at a distance of up to 600 kilometers (373 miles) and intercept targets with velocities of up to 4.8 kilometers per second. 

The system responds to the target in less than 10 seconds.

4- Why is Turkey purchasing the S-400 system instead of the Patriot system?

The U.S. administration is offering the Patriot system as an alternative to the S-400 air defense system.

Turkey negotiated the purchase of the Patriot system but backed down due to its high price and also especially after the U.S. refused to share the technical specifications of the system.

As Russia met Turkey’s expectations in terms of price, delivery, co-production and technology transfer, Ankara decided to purchase the S-400 air defense system.

5- Which other countries are interested in the S-400 system?

Russia sold the S-300 system to 20 countries, including NATO member countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia and Slovenia.

The first customers of the S-400 system were Belarus (2016) and China (2018). Besides Turkey, Russia has also agreed to sell the S-400 system to India and Saudi Arabia.

6- Where is Turkey in the process of purchasing the S-400 system?

According to an agreement signed in September 2017 with Russia, Turkey agreed to purchase two S-400 systems with a total of four batteries for $2.5 billion.

According to statements by Turkish authorities, the first delivery of the S-400 system is scheduled for July 2019.

7- Will there be preparations for the S-500 system after the S-400?

Russia continues to develop S-400-like systems. In this context, it is known that the S-400s will be followed by the mass production of the S-500, which is considered more advanced.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the green light on the S-500 and said "maybe after the S-400, we will look into the S-500 issue."

8- What do leaders think about the purchase of the S-400 system?

President Erdogan has underlined that there will be no turning back on the purchase of the S-400 system from Russia and called it a "done deal".

"We have made the S-400 deal with Russia, so it is out of question to take a step back. We will start joint production. Maybe after the S-400, we will continue with the S-500," he said.

Erdogan slammed those in the West who opposed Turkey's decision to purchase the S-400 system.

"Those who pressure us to cancel the S-400 deal: Why didn't you put the same pressure on other NATO countries such as Greece, Bulgaria and Slovenia, which all have the S-300?" he said.

During his visit to Turkey last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated they decided to shorten the due date for the delivery of the S-400 system to Turkey.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a statement regarding Turkey's purchase of the S-400 system, said it is the national decisions of countries to develop their military capabilities and added that for NATO, the most important thing is that "the different systems can work together".

9- What is the U.S. reaction?

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Turkey will face consequences in the form of various sanctions if it goes ahead with the purchase of the S-400 system.

Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino said the U.S. had not changed its position and voiced concern over Turkey's initiative to purchase the system from Russia.

Palladino added they have clearly informed Turkey about the difficulties it will face in purchasing U.S. weapons in the future, including F-35 fighter jets.

He also stated that all public or private companies involved in the purchase of the S-400 system could be subject to potential sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

10- What is CAATSA?

Signed into law on Aug. 2, 2017, CAATSA, among other things, imposed new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea.

Writing by Vakkas Dogantekin

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