Turkey is preparing to test its Russian-made S-400 missile defence system, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Video purporting to show S-400 components in transit circulated on social media on Oct. 6, according to Al-Monitor.
Notices restricting air and maritime space off Turkey’s Black Sea coast were issued in advance of tests likely to be carried out on Friday, a week after the missile systems were seen being transported to the area.
The testing of the Russian missile defence system is likely to increase tensions with the United States, which opposed the purchase of the system on the grounds that it compromises and is incompatible with NATO’s missile defence systems.
The United States is also concerned that the S-400’s integration will allow Russia to gain access to information on NATO’s defence system, including the F-35 fighter jets.
In March, the U.S. offered to sell Turkey its Patriot missile defence system if the S-400 was not made operational. However, the offer has expired, and Turkey was subsequently removed from the United States’ F-35 fighter jet programme.
Turkey issued notices restricting its airspace near the coastal city of Sinop to a height of 200,000 feet (61,000 metres) for a radar test and potential live-fire exercise for six hours on Oct. 16. It also issued a maritime notice earlier in the week for military exercises.
The U.S. Presidential elections are less than three weeks away, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden has signalled his intention to take a tougher line with Turkey than President Trump has done. Democratic politicians have also repeatedly called on the United States to sanction Turkey over its actions.
With the United States distracted by domestic politics, Turkey may see this as a good opportunity to build bridges with Russia in advance of a potential hardening of the United States’ line on Turkey if Biden wins in November.