The United States is preparing to send two Patriot air-defense batteries and 400 troops to Turkey following an order on Friday from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Reuters reported.
The move had been anticipated after NATO last week approved deployment of the missiles to its member nation. Germany and the Netherlands have already signed off on each sending two Patriot batteries to Turkey's border with Syria.
Ankara requested the defenses to counter missiles and other airborne threats from its neighbor, where the government has this week reportedly fired Scud missiles at rebel forces and is alleged to be preparing chemical weapons for possible use. Shells from Syria have already killed several people in Turkey.
"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," according to Pentagon spokesman George Little. He offered no detail on the siting of the Patriots or how long they would remain in Turkey.
"We expect them to be deployed in the coming weeks," Little said.
Putting the Patriots in place will require three weeks, a Pentagon source told the New York Times. The NATO systems are expected to be operational by the end of January, but one alliance source said fielding of the Dutch and German batteries could be expedited if required.
NATO on Friday reaffirmed that the Patriots would not be used to establish a "no-fly zone or any offensive operation. Its aim is to deter any threats to Turkey, to defend Turkey's population and territory and to de-escalate the crisis on NATO's southeastern border," the Associated Press reported.