Turkish F-16 warplanes were to fly over the country’s capital of Ankara on Monday to test its new Russian S-400 missile defenses, despite pressure from Washington for Turkey to drop the system, Reuters reported.
Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s has been a major factor souring relations with the United States, which says the system is not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter jets.
The provincial governor’s office announced on Sunday that the Turkish Air Force F-16s and other aircraft will conduct low and high-altitude flights over Ankara on Monday and Tuesday to test an air defense system project.
Broadcaster CNN Türk and other media said specifically that the flights were to test the S-400 radar system. Ankara began receiving the S-400s last July, but they are not yet operational.
As recently as last Thursday, a senior State Department official told reporters Turkey needed to “get rid of” the system. Those comments came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with US President Donald Trump at the White House.
Trump said their talks were “wonderful,” but it was unclear if the two NATO allies made any breakthrough on the S-400 issue. Erdoğan subsequently said US pressure to get rid of the S-400s was an infringement of sovereign rights.
Washington has suspended Turkey from the F-35 program, which it was a buyer and producer of, to punish it for the S-400 purchase. It has warned of possible US sanctions over the deal but has not yet imposed them.
Trump has told Erdoğan the United States is ready to sell Ankara US Patriot systems if it drops the Russian system.