Turkey Set to Test Russian S-400 Missiles That Caused U.S. Spat: Reports

Turkey appears set to test its Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system that has driven a wedge between Ankara and Washington, D.C., according to multiple reports and an International Civil Aviation Organization warning of imminent weapons tests near the Black Sea.

The Turkish ICAO "notice to airmen" noted: "Missile firing will take place" up to an altitude of 200,000 feet between October 13 and 16 close to the Black Sea coastal city of Sinop. Another notice said some local civil aviation routes will be closed during the missile exercise, with unmanned aerial vehicles set to be used in the area.

Turkish Minute was the first to link the notices to Turkey's S-400 missile system, purchased from Russia last year. The news website said it had seen a document detailing S-400 tests at the Sinop Missile Range between October 5 and 16. Dated September 24, the document said 10 Banshee aerial targets will be sent to the range to be used in the tests.

The tests will be "to ensure the engagement capability of the S-400 weapons system, the detection and tracking capability of the system's radars, the communications system capabilities, and the control of the firing and command control capabilities," the document said, according to Turkish Minute.

Bloomberg later backed up the report, citing "people familiar with the matter." The website said the air force will not activate the batteries, but that the drills would test equipment and personnel readiness.

The S-400 entered service in Russia in 2007. The longest range of its four missiles travels as fast as Mach 15 and can engage targets at a distance of 250 miles and an altitude of over 98,000 feet. It is widely considered one of, if not the most, advanced operational anti-aircraft system in the world.

Turkey took its first S-400 delivery in September following years of American efforts to collapse the 2017 deal for the system, which cost Turkey some $2.5 billion. The U.S. feared that Turkey's integration of Russian technology into its armed forces would help Moscow gather intelligence on NATO capabilities, particularly top secret details of the F-35 stealth jet.

Turkey was one of the foreign partners involved in the F-35 program, and was due to order 116 aircraft at a reported cost of around $11 billion. The U.S. kicked Turkey out of the program last year after the S-400 deal went ahead, citing the threat the system posed to U.S. and NATO security.

The State Department said it is "aware of these reports" relating to an imminent Turkish test. "We continue to object strenuously to Turkey's purchase of the S-400 air defense system, and are deeply concerned with reports that Turkey is continuing its efforts to bring the S-400 into operation," a spokesperson told Greece's Kathimerini newspaper.

As well as Turkey, China and Belarus already field the S-400. India has agreed a deal to purchase S-400s—prompting threats of American sanctions—while Saudi Arabia is reportedly also in discussions with Moscow about the system.

Earlier this month, Russia's ambassador to Iran said Moscow may sell the S-400 system to Tehran, if requested when a United Nations arms embargo on Iran lapses later this month.

Russia, Turkey, S-400, US, test
A rocket launches from an S-400 missile system at the Ashuluk military base in southern Russia on September 22, 2020. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images/Getty