US Patriot missile battery in Turkey comes under NATO command

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visits U.S. Patriot battery in Gaziantep, Turkey, February 4, 2013

From John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes:  A U.S. Patriot missile battery now up and running near Turkey’s border with Syria fell under NATO command and control Tuesday, bringing the alliance’s effort to bolster Turkish air defenses one step closer to becoming fully operational, U.S. military officials said. . . .

A second U.S. Patriot battery is expected to become operational in the coming days as construction at its operational site in Gaziantep nears completion.

While four Patriot batteries belonging to Germany and the Netherlands have been operating for more than a week, the U.S. effort has been slower to get off the ground. U.S. officials have said the effort was delayed because of legal complications in obtaining the needed approvals from the Turkish government. Now, the mission appears to be back on track.

On Saturday, a battery of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery out of Fort Sill, Okla., made the move from Incirlik Air Base to a Turkish army base in Gaziantep, said Capt. Royal Reff, a spokesman for the U.S. mission in Turkey. That battery became operational Saturday evening, he said. The other U.S. battery, still positioned in Incirlik, will soon make the move to Gaziantep to man the second Patriot system, bringing the NATO mission up to full capacity. NATO says the missile defense systems will provide protection for roughly 3.5 million Turkish citizens. The mission is expected to last up to one year.

From NATO:  "Today at 1000 the US Patriot unit at Gaziantep transferred authority to NATO command and became operational. This defensive effort by our NATO allies came at the request of our Government  and is a clear sign of Alliance solidarity," said Major Cengiz Alabacak of the Turkish General Staff.

The US now becomes the third NATO nation to stand guard against a missile threat along Turkey’s southwestern border.

"Today the US has joined it fellow Allies Germany and the Netherlands in helping to protect the people of Turkey in this region," said the SHAPE Spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Dariusz Kacperczyk. "This is what NATO Allies do for each other. It is all part of collective defence."

From Hurriyet Daily News:  U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visited Ankara today for talks on “a number of core issues,” including the Syrian crisis. . . .

Carter met with Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and other defense officials “to help advance mutual defense cooperation, including NATO-led efforts to address the potential missile threat resulting from the conflict in Syria,” according to the statement. . . .

Following his meeting with the defense minister, Carter traveled to Gaziantep province, where the U.S. Patriots are deployed.   (photo: Glenn Fawcett/Department of Defense)

Image: dod%202%205%2013%20Carter%20Patriot%20Turkey.jpg