Turkey has moved closer to getting the U.S. to supply advanced weaponry for its F-16 jets besides the acquisition of altogether new 40 F-16V fighters, media reports said.
Biden administration has reportedly asked U.S. lawmakers to approve the sale which includes supply of missiles, radar and electronics for Turkey's existing F-16 fleet, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. This $6 billion contract will also cover modernization kits for 80 F-16 C/D models.
It would come amid Turkey’s considerable mediation efforts to end the war in Ukraine and it supplying Kyiv with the Bayraktar TB2 combat drones, which the journal said significantly contributed to warming the relations between Ankara and Washington.
U.S. and Turkish officials are advocating for the F-16 deal, arguing that it could help repair the American-Turkish defense relationship, frayed after Ankara chose to buy a Russian S-400 air missile defense system in 2017, the report said.
A separate report last week suggested several U.S. lawmakers, who proved instrumental in kicking out Turkey from the F-35 program have signaled inclination in favor of the deal to allow Ankara’s purchase of F-16s.
The Turkish government made the request for the F-16s and modernization kits in October and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on April 8 that the talks were “progressing positively.”
The Biden administration has on several occasions signaled its openness to the sale, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who recently said that foreign military sales to key U.S. partners like Turkey should be expedited and bureaucratic hurdles removed. The administration also said recently that an F-16 deal with Turkey, a NATO member, serves the bloc’s interests.
Ankara had previously ordered more than 100 U.S. F-35 jets, but Washington removed Turkey from the program in 2019 after it bought Russian S-400s. Turkey has called the move unjust and demanded reimbursement for its $1.4 billion payment.
The U.S. claimed the Russian system was a safety risk, but Turkey maintained that the S-400 would pose no threat to NATO or its armaments because it would not be integrated into the alliance’s systems.
Ankara also repeatedly proposed setting up a commission to resolve the matter.