NATO Expects Patriot Missiles to Begin Protecting Turkey This Weekend

Dutch Patriot missile batteries are displayed on Jan. 7 before being shipped to Turkey. NATO on Wednesday said the Dutch units would likely be operational by this weekend, followed later this month by U.S. and German air-defense systems (AP Photo/Mark Carlson).
Dutch Patriot missile batteries are displayed on Jan. 7 before being shipped to Turkey. NATO on Wednesday said the Dutch units would likely be operational by this weekend, followed later this month by U.S. and German air-defense systems (AP Photo/Mark Carlson).

WASHINGTON -- Some areas of Turkey by this weekend will be covered by NATO Patriot missile interceptors amid continued worries about possible Syrian ballistic missile threats.

NATO announced on Wednesday that the two Patriot batteries sent by the Netherlands would within days begin operating near the city of Adana in southern Turkey. Four additional missile batteries deployed by Germany and the United States are respectively expected to be operational in Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep before the month is over.

The Patriot guided air-defense systems "are now only days away from becoming operational in Turkey," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said at a press briefing in Brussels.

"The deployment of the Patriots will be defensive only but it sends a very strong signal of allied solidarity," she continued.

Ankara requested the Patriot missile protection in November after Turkish territory was repeatedly struck by errant Syrian artillery shells and mortars launched in the course of the neighboring Arab state's bloody civil war. The Turkish government is also concerned about the possibility of coming under attack by the Bashar Assad regime's chemical weapons.

The mission to deploy, stand up, and integrate the six Patriot batteries with NATO command-and-control has gone smoothly, according to Brig. Gen. Gary Deakin, who heads the alliance's SHAPE Strategic Operations Center. "Currently, it's all going to plan."

NATO in 1991 and 2003 also provided Patriot antimissile protection to Turkey. "This is normal business for us. There is nothing new here. We are used to this," Deakin stated.

"We expect to have an [initial] operational capability this weekend. That's what we're aiming at," Deakin said to reporters. "The full capability we expect to deliver at the end of the month."

Each of the six batteries comes with a mixture of Patriot Advanced Capability 2 and 3 missiles, according to NATO.

Deakin said the decision to post Patriot antimissile systems at Adana, Kahramanmaras, and Gaziantep -- all in the southwestern part of the country --  was reached in "close coordination" with the Turkish government.

While Patriot systems can be calibrated to combat a variety of airborne threats including cruise missiles and enemy fighter jets, the brigadier general said the units in Turkey would be focused on defending "against the sort of missiles that are being used, have been used in Syria."

NATO last week calculated that the Syrian military in recent weeks had fired in excess of 20 Scud-like tactical ballistic missiles at opposition forces.

The Patriot mission is planned to last for a year, though there could be discussions to reduce or extend that time frame depending on how the situation in Syria develops, the alliance said.

 

January 23, 2013
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WASHINGTON -- Some areas of Turkey by this weekend will be covered by NATO Patriot missile interceptors amid continued worries about possible Syrian ballistic missile threats.

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