ANKARA - Serkan Demirtaş
A Turkish official confirms that a NATO radar system designed to intercept missiles from ‘rogue states’ will be up and running in Malatya within a week.
NATO’s Malatya-based ballistic missile early warning radar system will begin functioning next week, a senior Turkish official said Dec. 23, reiterating that the device was defensive and not directed at any particular country, especially Iran. “The early warning radar system will become operational next week, before the end of this year,” an official said.
The device in the eastern province of Malatya will start functioning only after NATO approves a bilateral deal between Turkey and the United States detailing the terms of deployment. A NATO committee will meet next week to finalize the process and press the button activating the radar, said the official, who did not want to be named as he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The agreement signed between Ankara and Washington calls for the deployment of a U.S. AN/TPY-2 (X-band) early warning radar system at a military installation at Kürecik in Malatya as part of NATO’s missile defense project.
The Pentagon has previously said it was thought the system would be ready to function before 2012 – something that was confirmed by the Turkish official. In line with the launch of the Kürecik radar system, the U.S. is also sending warships carrying anti-ballistic missile shield interceptors to take up position in the eastern Mediterranean.
The move comes amid strong criticisms from Iran, which perceives the deployment of the radar system as a hostile act against itself and has threatened to hit the installation in the event of an attack on its territory by Israel or the U.S. The Turkish government has responded with assurances that the radar system is for defensive purposes only and is not targeted at specific countries. It approved the deployment of the radar system after tense negotiations at NATO’s Lisbon Summit last year with those who wanted to specify Iran as the biggest potential threat to the alliance due to its nuclear program.
According to the agreement signed between the two allies, around 50 U.S. soldiers will be deployed at the installations, accompanied by a number of Turkish troops. Though the deal will expire in two years, the parties can extend the mandate.
In addition, a Turkish senior commander is to be posted at NATO’s headquarters in Germany, where the intelligence gathered through the radar system will be processed.