Operational training for Turkish Air Force personnel on the S-400 missile defense system has begun in Gatchina, Russia, per a tweet by Turkey’s Defense Ministry on September 4.
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) September 4, 2019
The training follows delivery of the first Russian-sourced S-400 battery to Turkey on July 25. That was followed by delivery of a second batch of S-400 equipment to Turkey on August 27, with ancillary elements continuing to arrive through this month.
Turkey plans to complete the setup for the first of the two S-400 batteries by the end of the year, with deliveries of the remaining elements ordered to all four batteries to be completed by year-end 2020.
Despite entreaties by Washington, coupled with the threat of financial sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and the removal of Turkey from the F-35 program by the U.S., Turkey continues to implement its S-400 acquisition program contracted for in 2017 at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion.
The Turkish government has used the issue of the S-400 procurement both as a key military capability enabler and a symbolic gesture of national sovereignty. It shows zero sign of walking away from its deal with Russia and instead is moving forward with implementation of the new long-range air defense system. This means Turkey and the U.S. are at a crossroads in their relationship – and Russia has a chance to deepen both defense cooperation with Ankara and the fissure between the Turkey and NATO.