Turkey's potential $6 billion purchase of F-16 jets in place of F-35 aircraft could signal an end to Washington's row with Ankara over the S-400 Air Defense Systems (ADS) procurement from Russia.
Western media reported Tuesday that the Biden administration is backing Turkey's F-16 purchase request made earlier this year. While sanctioning officials from the Turkish arms procurement agency, SSB, the U.S. government had singled out S-400's incompatibility with NATO and its potential threat to F-35's advanced systems. No mention was made of F-16 or any other aircraft or weapon system.
On September 30, Ankara sent a formal request to the U.S. to purchase 40 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft and nearly 80 kits to modernize its F-16 fighters, Bloomberg reported citing two officials familiar with the matter.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will reportedly hold a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at the upcoming global G-20 summit.
London-based Middle East Eye (MEE) wrote citing a Turkish official that Turkey’s F-16s fleet, if not restored, “could put not only the security of Ankara’s but also NATO’s southern flank at risk.”
“The U.S. officials never told us that the modernization of F-16 was something out of reach,” the official said. “We believe Washington would be mindful of the Turkish and Greek balance as well,” referring to the Greek purchase of French Rafale warplanes.
The Biden administration had no issues with the request to update the (Turkish) F-16s, another official told the MEE. “However, the U.S. Congress is another matter,” the official said.
The U.S. has already agreed to modernize F-16 jets operated by Greece, a country with which Turkey has an uneasy history and relationship with, to the “V” or Viper configuration for $270 million.