The commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe on Sunday offered the military's first confirmation that a long-range radar established in Turkey is now online, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Feb. 3).
"We have the forces in place ... at a radar site in southern Turkey," Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said of the U.S. system.
"I can only speak for the ground base air defense units. But I will tell you that we make constant coordination (with the U.S. Navy and Air Force), and I think we are well on track to conduct missile defense,"
Ankara had previously declared operational the X-band radar unit installed in Turkey's Kurecik province (see GSN, Jan. 17).
The radar base is a crucial part of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense. The plan involves the gradual fielding between now and 2020 of increasingly advanced missile interceptors at land bases in Romania and Poland and on U.S. battleships home ported in Spain. Those interceptors would be supported by data on potential high-altitude missile threats collected by the radar in Turkey.
"From an Army perspective, the missile defense plans are going as scheduled," Hertling said.
Turkey's hosting of the radar base has brought it into contention with Iran, which is the main target of U.S. missile defense plans for Europe (see GSN, Dec. 15, 2011).
Meanwhile, Israel has authorized a $1.6 billion weapons deal to export unmanned aircraft, air-defense systems and antimissile technology to Azerbaijan, which shares a border with Iran.
Jerusalem believes Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon and is thought to be weighing a pre-emptive strike against the atomic sites of its longtime foe. Tehran insists its atomic program is strictly peaceful in nature (see related GSN story, today; Dusan Stojanovic, Associated Press/Boston Globe, Feb. 27).
Unidentified Israeli defense officials said the deal between Azerbaijan and the state-managed Israel Aerospace Industries had been in the pipeline for an extended period and was not a reaction to Tehran's atomic activities or recent attempted assassinations of Israeli diplomatic officials that have been blamed on Iran, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Feb. 27).