Turkey's procurement of F-16 Block 70 aircraft from the United States has successfully navigated the review and objection process in the U.S. Congress, marking the finalization of the deal for 40 Lockheed Martin F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits.
The 15-day period, during which members of the U.S. Congress could raise objections to the sale, concluded on Saturday without any obstacles.
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration formally notified Congress of its intention to proceed with the $23 billion sale on January 26. The extended process, which tested the diplomatic ties between Washington and Ankara, saw its resolution after Turkey completed the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership.
The State Department's formal notification triggered a 15-day window for Congress to raise objections to the sale. The review process ended on Saturday, and no objections were lodged, allowing the deal to move forward under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act (AECA).
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the sole member of Congress to present an objection, which was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, no action was taken on Paul's proposal, highlighting the smooth progression of the deal.
U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, Jeffry L. Flake, praised Congress' decision, stating, "Türkiye's F-16 fleet is critical to NATO's strength, ensuring future interoperability among allies."
The approval comes after Turkey's initial attempt to purchase Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets faced obstacles in 2019, leading to its removal from the multinational program due to the acquisition of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia. Despite this, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland expressed openness to welcoming Turkey back into the F-35 program if the S-400 issue is resolved.
As Turkey proceeds with the F-16 procurement, it continues to explore alternative options, engaging in discussions to buy Eurofighter Typhoon jets. Ankara's interest in Eurofighters remains despite the U.S. approval of the F-16 sale. Additionally, Turkey is developing its own fifth-generation national combat aircraft named KAAN.
The U.S. Congress' final approval of the F-16 deal comes after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's endorsement of Sweden's NATO membership, concluding over a year of negotiations. Erdoğan had linked Sweden's accession to NATO to Turkey's aspiration to acquire F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. He also called on other NATO allies, including Canada, to lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkey.