For NATO it is a provocation: Turkey wants to buy Russia anti-aircraft missiles of the type S-400. Instead of one of the usual systems within the Alliance, the NATO partner Turkey wants to install just a defensive shield, which comes from the factories of the increasingly aggressive opponent Russia.
Within NATO, resistance is now growing. The Russian system, it is said, is not only incompatible with the technical structure of the military alliance and its related anti-aircraft systems. There is also the danger that explosive details about the strengths and weaknesses of the new US fighter jets F-35 could reach the Russian hands.
Turkey wants to buy more than 100 F-35s for its own air force. The deal is billions. Ironically, the S-400 system is considered as potentially the most dangerous opponent of the multi-purpose fighter aircraft, which should become the backbone of the US and other air forces in the coming years.
The military fear Russian espionage
Accordingly, one is alarmed at NATO. Although the S-400 deal is currently delayed, a Defense Alliance diplomat recently said, one has to think about a reaction right now.
On the open stage, the concerns are still wrapped in soft words. The planned S-400 purchase by Turkey is causing “a lot of headaches,” said US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis before the US Congress. At a recent meeting of NATO foreign ministers, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underlined once again that there are only announcements for the purchase, but no contract.
The internal analysis is more concrete. Put simply, the military fear that the S-400 system will install a kind of Moscow eye on NATO territory. The Turks would probably depend on Russian aid for years to operate the plants. And the data obtained in this time could flow to Moscow . Insiders also suspect that Russia could gain access to all data via a backdoor in the system’s complex software anyway.
Extensive radar data
Especially for the investigation of the weaknesses of the F-35, the extensive radar data of the S-400 systems would be helpful. Air force experts warn that Russia could study and analyze completely undisturbed the F-35 jets flying over Turkey. Washington does not like the fact that Moscow can investigate so close to the billion dollar US super jet .
Although the stealth technology protect the jet from the active radar of the Russian system, experts say. At the same time, however, Russia could use the S-400 batteries in Turkey to clear up other technical jets of the jet – such as voice radio, data links to the ground or the on-board radar – and learn step by step how to locate the supposedly invisible plane.
For a weapon system like the F-35, whose stealth and data capabilities are central, that would be catastrophic. “We need to protect this high-end technology,” said Heidi Grant, a US Air Force external relations officer, on the sidelines of the Dubai Air Show last November. The Turkey-Russia deal is a threat in this respect.
F-35 delivery to Turkey potentially at risk
The fears are likely to fuel the American discussion over the sale of the F-35. At the end of April, three Republican senators introduced a bill to the US Congress. In it, they demand the stop of the deal, as Turkey continues to say goodbye to democracy and, for example, in the Syrian conflict instead of the strategic interests of the United States pursue only their own goals.
In April, a senior US State Department official told the House of Representatives that Turkey was at risk of receiving economic sanctions. Background is a law that threatens the purchase of Russian defense equipment since 2017 with sanctions. The US actually wanted to punish Russia for annexing Crimea.
However, a blockade would be a drastic step, since Turkey has been one of nine partners in the F-35 program since 1999. Politically, the move would also equate to a vote of no confidence against the NATO partner. Even today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flirts with Russia quite unabashedly, and increasingly turns his back on NATO. Nobody imagines how he would react to another cuff of the Alliance.
Probably that is why NATO has left it with cautious threats. Of course, every NATO member is free to buy the weapons of his choice, said Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO military committee, last November in Washington. The other Allies were also free in their reactions. Pavel’s warning: “Every decision has consequences.”
F-35 vs S-400 – Covert Cabal