The US is deploying two Patriot missile units along with 400 troops to Turkey as part of a Nato force to protect Turkish territory from potential Syrian attack.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta signed a deployment order on Friday on his way to Turkey from Afghanistan.
The order calls for the American soldiers to operate two batteries of Patriots at undisclosed locations in Turkey.
The move is part of a wider Nato effort to bolster Ankara’s air defences amid growing tension on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Germany and the Netherlands are also sending Patriots, which are designed to knock out cruise and ballistic missiles as well as aircraft.
Turkey is a founding member of Nato and requested the help from the alliance after siding with opposition forces battling President Bashar al Assad’s regime.
The Turkish government has vowed to defend its territory after cross-border artillery fire wounded civilians and one of its fighter jets was downed.
US and European leaders have warned the Assad regime not to use its arsenal of chemical arms, calling it a “red line” that would trigger international military action.
During a brief stop at Incirlik Air Base Mr Panetta told US troops that Turkey might need the Patriots.
He said he had approved the deployment “so that we can help Turkey have the kind of missile defence it may very well need to deal with the threats coming out of Syria.”
Mr Panetta did not reveal how soon the two Patriot batteries will head to Turkey or how long they will stay.[adrotate banner=”55″]