Turkey receives Patriot Missiles from NATO
6 March 2013
Due to the proximity of the Syrian conflict, Turkey made an application in November 2012 for several banks of Patriot missiles.
Although no missiles from Syria have, as yet, hit Turkey, NATO granted the request as Turkey has enraged the Assad government of Syria by accepting refugees from Syria and by giving support to the Syrian opposition forces.
The missiles arrived in February 2013 and are understood to have be made operational last week.
The aim of the facility is to make Turkish cities less vulnerable to missile attacks from Syrian forces. The launchers contain two types of technology. The earlier technology is based on the PAC-2 missile system that distracts and destroys incoming missiles by means of a shrapnel explosion. The latest technology is in the PAC-3 missiles that is designed to target and follow incoming missiles and then destroy them.
The main US presence is at Gaziantep, which is a large Turkish army base and some 35 miles from the Syrian border. The German contingent is around 70 miles away at Kahramanmaras and the Dutch are about 150 westwards at Adana.
There is also a longstanding US airforce base at Incirlik
Both NATO and Turkey are at pains to emphasise that the purpose of the deployment is purely defensive. This is self evident as the sole purpose of Patriots is to intercept incoming missiles. Turkey already has a sophisticated air defense network, based partly on Israeli technology, and this is considered more than adequate to deter and repulse any attacks from incoming aircraft.
Control of the weapons lies with NATO via their command centre at Ramstein, Germany. This centre also co-ordinates incoming intelligence from a number of sources concerning troop movements and air activity within Syria.
The question of a no-fly zone over Syria, as repeatedly requested by the Syrian opposition, is not addressed by the deployment of the Patriot missiles. However, it does permit NATO to state that it has made a contribution to regional security.
If there is a US intervention in Syria at a future date, it is likely that Turkey will be the launching pad. The US has a significant but unquantified presence of troops and equipment at Incirlik.
In the meantime, the US stance remains one of non intervention, other than providing intelligence and covert support to the Syrian opposition.
Copyright - Leslie Hardy, 6 March 2013