The U.S. European Command on Friday said initial gear and staff have reached Turkey to aid in the operation of Patriot air-defense batteries intended to protect the country from feared chemical weapons attacks, missiles or other threats from Syria.
Turkey is expected in coming days to receive equipment and roughly 400 U.S. troops from a unit headquartered at Fort Sill in Oklahoma; more gear is expected to arrive over the course of January. Service members would staff two Patriot units in Turkey for the United States; Germany and the Netherlands are anticipated in short order to each field two additional batteries in accordance with NATO's decision last year to provide air-defense support to its member nation.
The Netherlands on Friday confirmed that it intends on Monday to ship Patriot units to Turkey, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
"They will be transported by ships from the port of Eemshaven, so it will take a while," Dutch Defense Ministry spokesman Capt. Paul Vledder said to the news agency. "The systems are expected to arrive in Turkey on Jan. 22."
On Tuesday, roughly 50 German and Dutch troops will leave for Turkey in order to handle the logistics of the Patriot deployments. A larger deployment of some 270 Dutch military personnel will head to the country on Jan. 21; they will operate two Patriot batteries for the maximum one-year term of the systems' deployment. The projected cost of the operation is $54 million.
In excess of 1,000 U.S., Dutch and German military personnel will be deployed with the Patriots in Turkey, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. deployment site is about 31 miles north of the Turkish-Syrian border, while German troops would be 60 miles north of Syria and the Dutch personnel 66 miles west of the boundary line.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government on Thursday once again was unable to come to a final resolution on which of several foreign weapons suppliers to select for a $4 billion missile defense contract, the Turkish World Bulletin website reported.
Ankara for years has weighed competing bids from U.S., European, Russian and Chinese defense firms. The government's Defense Industry Implementation Committee said it would convene additional sessions on which company to select for the contract.
Turkey is interested in acquiring 12 missile batteries capable of striking targets at distances of up to 75 miles, according to the Taraf newspaper.