The United States and Germany will send Patriot missiles and a total of 800 soldiers to fellow NATO member Turkey in order to defend the country from potential missile attacks by neighboring Syria, according to reports.

The U.S. will account for one-half of the personnel to be deployed in Turkey, the Pentagon said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also authorized soldiers to operate two batteries of Patriot missiles at undisclosed locations, raising the total number of Patriot batteries in Turkey to six (including two from Germany and Holland each).

It is unclear when the Patriots from the U.S. will arrive in Turkey or how long American troops will be stationed there.

Patriot missiles have the ability to shoot down aircraft and short-range ballistic missiles. They were used successfully during the Iraq war to bring down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles.

Germany has already agreed to deploy up to 400 of its own soldiers to defend Turkey through January 21014, while another NATO ally, the Netherlands, will send up to 360 soldiers.

NATO approved a request for such defense operations by Turkey at the end of last month.

Germany, the US and NATO have all emphasized that these military maneuvers are purely defensive in nature and do not represent a prelude to an invasion of Syria, which has between wracked by a brutal civil war for 21 months at the cost of at least 20,000 lives.

Turkey, once a strong ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, has condemned the Damascus regime's brutal crackdown on opponents, cut off diplomatic ties months ago and supported the rebels.

Since the outbreak of the revolt, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have flooded into Turkey. The Syrian military has also launched a number of shells that landed across the border onto Turkish territory sparking fears the unrest in Syria could spill over.

Ankara and Washington are also concerned that as Assad becomes more isolated, he may move to use chemical weapons on his own people.

In that event Panetta told reporters that the U.S. government has drawn up plans in response, but provided no details.

The U.S. air force base in Incirlik, Turkey is located only about 80 miles from the Syrian border.