ANKARA        -          Turkey could finalise terms for delivery of a second consignment of S-400 advanced missile defences from Russia by April when the first batch will be ready to operate, Ankara’s defence industry chief said on Friday.

Turkey has already agreed to buy two consignments of S-400s, triggering a crisis with the United States and possible US sanctions, but Ankara is discussing technology transfer and joint production with Moscow for the second batch, he said.

The United States says the S-400s are incompatible with Western defences and has suspended NATO ally Turkey from an F35 stealth fighter jet programme because it fears Russia would gain information about the jets through deployment of the systems. Ismail Demir, head of the Turkish Defence Industry Directorate, said Ankara was still interested in buying US Patriot defences. Turkey had no preconditions, he said, but Washington has repeatedly asked Turkey to drop the S-400s.

Under the proposed sanctions Ankara could be blocked from purchasing F-16 spare parts, Demir said, which would relieve Turkey from its duties on intellectual property rights and allow it to resort to domestic production.

“If one of the parties change the rules of the game, the other party would not have to play the game,” Demir said.

Turkey wants to eventually replace its existing fleet of F-16 with its first indigenous fighter jet, the TF-X, and was open to international cooperation on the project, Demir said. He said the initial plan was to use General Electric’s F110 engine as the starting point for planning the new jet, but the defence directorate was studying alternatives.

Turkey and Britain are close to agreeing on collaboration to build a new generation of fighter jet engines for the Turkish air force, he said. The 100 million pound ($128 million) deal between Kale Group and Rolls-Royce was initially signed two years ago but in effect put on hold in March after failure to resolve differences over intellectual property rights and terms of production.

The main issue for Ankara was that development and production should be carried out in Turkey. “Rolls-Royce does not object to producing it in Turkey, and the existing differences over mass production and intellectual property rights can be overcome,” Demir said. He said the structure of a joint venture which has been set up between Rolls-Royce and Kale could also be altered.

Russia raises concerns over new US ballistic missile test

Russia said Friday it was alarmed after the United States tested a ground-launched ballistic missile that would have been banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the RIA news agency reported.

The United States carried out the test on Thursday. Washington formally withdrew from the 1987 INF pact with Russia in August after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty, an accusation the Kremlin has denied. “It alarms us. Of course we will take this into account,” said Vladimir Ermakov, head of the foreign ministry’s arms control and non-proliferation department.

It was the second test by the United States that would have been prohibited under the INF treaty and too place as the future of another major nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States is under question.

New START, the last remaining major nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries, is due to expire in February 2021 and Moscow has warned there is already not enough time left to negotiate a full-fledged replacement.