The US administration approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, marking a pivotal moment in the expansion of NATO after Turkey’s parliamentary ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership.
The Biden administration’s approval of the $23 billion F-16 sale to Turkey, communicated to Congress by the State Department on Friday, signals a crucial moment in NATO’s expansion. This decision, involving 40 new F-16s and upgrades for 79 existing aircraft, aligns with Ankara’s long-standing aspiration to modernize its fleet.
Concurrently, a companion $8.6 billion sale of F-35 fighter jets to Greece was swiftly approved, reinforcing NATO’s capabilities in the region. This development materialized following Turkey’s deposit of the “instrument of ratification” for Sweden’s NATO accession, overcoming objections from key members of Congress that had caused delays.
Turkey’s journey to upgrade its F-16 fleet was contingent on ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership, a process delayed for over a year due to concerns about Sweden’s approach to Turkey’s national security issues, including the fight against Kurdish militants.
As the F-16 sale advances, uncertainties persist over Ankara’s ambitions to acquire F-35s and participate in their production, adding complexity to the broader landscape of international defense partnerships within NATO.
“If we can resolve the S-400 issue, which we want to do, the US would be happy to welcome Turkey back into the F-35 family. If we can overcome this issue, the CAATSA issue will disappear, and we can go back to the F-35 talks,” said Victoria Nuland, Acting US Deputy Secretary of State.
The issue stems from the imposition of US sanctions on Turkey, led by then-US president Trump, following its multibillion-dollar purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system.