Turkey has asked the United States to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters and nearly 80 upgrade kits for its existing combat aircraft, as a NATO ally hopes to modernize its air force after the purchase of F-35 aircraft failed, sources told Reuters.
The billion-dollar deal is still underway as part of the overseas sales of military products, which are subject to approval by the US Department of State, as well as by the US Congress, which could block it.
Reuters sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the State Department is already discussing a deal with Turkey.
“As a matter of policy, the Department does not endorse or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified by Congress,” a State Department spokesman said. The Turkish Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
Ankara has ordered more than 100 F-35 aircraft, also produced by Lockheed Martin, but was dropped from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
The longstanding partnership between NATO allies has experienced unprecedented turmoil over the past five years: due to policy differences over Syria, Ankara’s closer ties with Moscow, its naval ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, US accusations against the state-owned Turkish bank, erosion of rights and freedoms in Turkey.
The jet request is likely to run into trouble getting approval from the US Congress, where attitudes towards Turkey have deteriorated sharply in recent years, primarily due to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400, and then to its problematic reputation for rights. person.
Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 entailed US sanctions. In December 2020, Washington blacklisted the Turkish Defense Industry Authority, its boss Ismail Demir, and three other employees.
Since then, the United States has repeatedly warned Turkey against further purchases of Russian weapons. But last week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan indicated that Ankara still intends to buy a second batch of S-400s from Russia, which could exacerbate the gap with Washington.
There is bipartisan support in the US Congress to push the Biden administration to put further pressure on Ankara. Earlier they said they hoped to improve relations between the countries under US President Joe Biden.