Turkey began testing on Monday its Russian missile defense system, local media reported, despite repeated calls from the United States that it could lead to sanctions.
Planes, including F-16 fighter jets, circled the Murted military base in Ankara province to test the newly acquired S-400 system and train Turkish operators, news agency DHA reported.
Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 in July was met with consternation by its NATO allies.
The US argues there is a risk that sensitive technological information could be leaked if it is used alongside Western equipment such as the new F-35 jet.
Turkey, however, says that the S-400 would neither be integrated into NATO systems nor pose a threat to the alliance.
Turkey has ordered 100 F-35s and its defence industry was part of the supply chain for the new jet, until it was kicked off the programme due to the S-400 purchase.
So far, the US has appeared reluctant to impose threatened sanctions on Turkey over the purchase, with officials saying it could be spared if it does not activate the S-400 system — though this option has been rejected by Turkey.
Recently a senior State Department official told reporters Turkey needed to “get rid of” the system. Those comments came after President Tayyip Erdogan met US President Donald Trump at the White House.
Trump said their talks were “wonderful” but it was unclear if the two Nato allies made any breakthrough on the S-400 issue and Erdogan subsequently said US pressure to get rid of the S-400s was an infringement of sovereign rights.
The US earlier this year suspended Turkey from the F-35 programme, which it was a buyer and producer of, over its purchase of the Russian systems and warned of possible US sanctions over the deal.