Just days after Turkey agreed to let the U.S. launch airstrikes against Islamic militants Syria from Incirlik, the U.S. announced its pulling its Patriot missile systems out of the country, apparently because of recent Turkish bombing of Kurds in Iraq.
My colleague, Richard Sisk, has the story at Military.com:
The U.S. announced Sunday that Patriot anti-air and missile batteries and 400 troops deployed to Turkey will be withdrawn following a similar move by NATO ally Germany seen as a protest against Turkish airstrikes on the Kurds.The statement said the MIM-104 Patriot system made by Raytheon Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. will return to the U.S. for upgrades, But it didn't elaborate on what kinds of enhancements are in store -- or make any mention of Turkish airstrikes in northwestern Iraq against the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK.
The Pentagon put out a joint statement by Washington and NATO ally Turkey saying that the Patriot batteries, which were sent to Turkey in 2013 to protect against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, would return to the U.S. by October.
Turkey asked for the deployment of the Patriots following the shoot down in 2012 of a Turkish fighter by Syrian air defenses.
NATO in late 2012 authorized the deployment of six of the truck-mounted launchers to Turkey, acquiescing to Ankara's plea to help shield the country after a mortar fired from neighboring war-ravaged Syria killed five Turkish civilians. The U.S., Germany and Netherlands all furnished two batteries apiece.
The Netherlands earlier this year withdrew its batteries because it reportedly didn't have the money to keep them deployed. Germany, meanwhile, on Saturday announced it would take back its systems in 2016, ending a three-year mission. The U.S. followed suit on Sunday.
Will the removal of the Patriot batteries in Turkey mean greater risk for the six U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets now flying missions into Syria? No, according to the Pentagon, Sisk reported:
"The U.S. will maintain 'a persistent presence' of Navy Aegis anti-missile ships in the eastern Mediterranean, the statement said. 'These ships offer a range of capabilities to support the defense of Turkey and NATO missions, including support for NATO air and missile defense.'"The U.S. military has more than 1,000 Patriot missile batteries in the inventory in various configurations, including the Lockheed Martin-made PAC-3, which features improved software and radar to better discriminate and track ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and other threats.
The U.S. Army plans to spend $380 million in fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1, to buy 10 enhanced launcher electronic systems for the PAC-3, among other enhancements, according to budget documents. Separately, the service plans to spend $417 million to buy 80 PAC-3 missiles equipped with solid rocket motors, larger fins and upgraded guidance systems as part of a performance improvement known as the Missile Segment Enhancement, or MSE.