US finally approves F-16 sale to Türkiye after long-delayed process

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has finally approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye, ending years of sometimes tense negotiations after Ankara formally ratified Sweden’s membership in NATO last week.

The State Department late Friday formally informed Congress of its intention to proceed with the $23 billion (TL 697.8 billion) sale of F-16 warplanes and modernization kits to Türkiye, taking a major step toward completing a long-delayed process that tested ties with Ankara.


The move came just hours after Türkiye deposited its “instrument of ratification” for Sweden’s accession to NATO with Washington, which is the repository for alliance documents after several key members of Congress lifted their objections.

Türkiye will get 40 new Lockheed Martin F-16s and upgrades to 79 of the jets in its existing fleet, the State Department said in a news release.


NATO ally Türkiye has long sought to upgrade its F-16 fleet and first requested the jets in October 2021. The Biden administration had supported the sale, but several lawmakers in Congress had tied the sale to Türkiye’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan eventually also made Sweden’s membership contingent on approving the sale of the new planes.

Earlier last week, the Turkish Parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO bid, and subsequently, Biden wrote a letter to key congressional committee leaders, urging them to approve the F-16 sale “without delay.”

The State Department’s Friday night notification came only a day after Erdoğan gave his final sign-off on Sweden’s ratification.


Türkiye had delayed its approval for more than a year, ostensibly because it believed Sweden did not take Ankara’s national security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against terrorist groups.

Sweden responded by tightening its anti-terrorism legislation and taking other security steps demanded by Ankara.

Sweden’s formal accession to NATO now depends on Hungary, which is the last remaining NATO ally not to have approved its membership. U.S. and NATO officials have said they expect Hungary to act quickly, especially after Türkiye’s decision.

“My approval of Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 aircraft has been contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. But make no mistake: This was not a decision I came to lightly,” said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of four key committees that needs to approve arms transfers.

“I look forward to beginning this new chapter in our relationship with Turkey, expanding the NATO alliance, and working with our global allies in standing up to ongoing Russian aggression against its peaceful neighbors,” Cardin said.

Following the transfer of the formal notification by the State Department, Congress has 15 days to object to the sale, after which it is considered final.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security of the U.S. by improving the air capabilities and interoperability of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Ally that is a force for political and economic stability in Europe,” the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” it said.

Sen. Jim Risch, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in late October that he would drop his objection to the sale after Erdoğan gave a greenlight to Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Michael McCaul and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory Meeks released statements saying they approved the sale to Türkiye.

Ankara first sought to purchase Lockheed Martin’s more advanced F-35 fighter jets, but the U.S. removed it from the multinational program to buy and help develop and build the warplane in 2019 after it acquired S-400 air missile defense systems from Russia.

Frustrated by the prolonged process over F-16s, Türkiye began discussing buying Eurofighters, produced by a consortium involving Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.

In November, it announced it was in talks with Britain and Spain to buy 40 Eurofighter jets, though Germany objected. Türkiye has been urging Germany to align with the NATO spirit.

Ankara has also urged Canada and other NATO allies to lift arms embargoes on Türkiye.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Biden administration simultaneously advanced the $8.6 billion sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to Greece as Washington tries to strike a balance between two NATO members with a history of tense relations.

The sale to Greece includes 40 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and related equipment.



DAILYSABAH F16 sale to Turkey

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Abu Hamza is member of Business Bee Staff

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