President Joe Biden has urged U.S. lawmakers to approve the sale of F-16 aircraft to Turkey, after Ankara agreed to allow Sweden’s entry into NATO.
U.S. President Joe Biden sent a letter to leaders of key U.S. Congress committees to inform them of his intention to begin the formal notification process for the sale of F-16 aircraft to Turkey. The news, broken by Reuters, came after the Turkish parliament voted to accept Sweden’s accession to NATO on Jan. 23, 2024, sending the measure back to Turkey’s President Erdogan for his signature.
All NATO members need to approve applications from countries seeking to join the alliance. When Sweden and Finland asked to join the alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Turkey raised objections over the accession because the two countries allow groups which Turkey classifies as terrorist organisations to operate on their territory, including the Kurdish militant groups Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), Democratic Union Party (Syria) (PYD), and People’s Defense Units (YPG).
Turkey requested in 2021 the sale of 40 newly built F-16 Block 70 aircraft and the modernization kits for 79 F-16s already in service in order to modernize the Turkish Air Force frontline fleet (and retire its F-4E 2020 Terminator jets). However, so far only a separate avionics upgrade has been authorized.
Biden Administration had made Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership a prerequisite for the sale of those jets. Now that Ankara has agreed to allow Sweden’s entry into NATO, Biden urged Congress to approve the F-16 deal “without delay”.
The Turkish Minister of National Defense recently said talks were in progress with the United Kingdom and Spain to procure 40 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, after the long-sought acquisition of the F-16 Block 70/72 hadn’t made much progress.