The Joe Biden administration urged the U.S. Congress to approve the sale of F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits to Türkiye in a letter submitted on Wednesday, sources said.
The administration wrote to members of Congress, urging the approval of a $20 billion sale of Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and modernization kits, three sources familiar with the letter told Reuters.
U.S. President Joe Biden has taken steps to initiate the formal notification process for the potential sale of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, pending Ankara’s completion of Sweden’s NATO accession process.
As reported by Reuters on January 24, President Biden conveyed his intention to congressional leaders in a letter addressed to key Capitol Hill committees. In this communication, he called on Congress to promptly approve the sale. A U.S. official indicated that Biden urged Congress to facilitate the sale “without delay.”
Prior to this formal notification, the White House had already communicated its support for the proposed $20 billion sale of F-16 aircraft and modernization kits to Turkey. Sources familiar with the matter confirmed that a letter from the White House had been sent to members of Congress, advocating for the sale.
Turkey has expressed interest in acquiring 40 F-16 fighters and 80 modernization kits for its existing F-16 inventory.
The Biden administration backs the modernization of Türkiye’s F-16 fleet but it recognizes that the U.S. Congress has a significant role to play in this regard, the State Department said Wednesday.
When asked on Wednesday if the State Department would send the formal notification for the jets once Sweden’s NATO process is fully formalized, Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel did not commit to a timeline.
“President Biden, Secretary Blinken have been very clear of our support for modernizing Turkey’s F-16 fleet, which we view as a key investment in NATO interoperability. But beyond that, we also recognize that Congress has a key role in reviewing arms sales, but I’m just not going to confirm or get ahead of proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”
Patel told reporters that the U.S. also welcomed the ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid by the Turkish Parliament but said the process is not yet complete. He added that Washington looks forward to receiving Türkiye’s instrument of ratification and Hungary moving along in the process as well.
As Türkiye has cleared the long-delayed path for Sweden’s bid to join NATO, eyes have now turned toward the U.S.’ prolonged approval of sales of F-16 fighter jets, which has been linked to Ankara’s approval of Stockholm’s application to join the military bloc.
The Turkish Parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO membership bid on Tuesday, clearing the biggest remaining hurdle to expand the Western alliance after 20 months of delay.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly backed the deal and promised to move forward with the $20-billion sale.
It never formally tied the sale of the F-16s to Türkiye’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO application. However, some key members of Congress had said they would not support the sale unless and until Türkiye signs off on Sweden’s accession to the alliance.
Administration officials and analysts expect relatively quick action on the F-16 sale after Türkiye ratifies Sweden’s NATO membership. However, there is no clear time frame for the U.S. Congress to approve the deal.
Türkiye’s request aims to replace the Air Forces Command’s ageing F-16 fleet in the inventory, which will be phased out starting in the 2030s.
Ankara 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 of its request to acquire F-16s, Türkiye has begun discussions to buy Eurofighters, produced by a consortium involving Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Türkiye announced in November it was in talks with Britain and Spain to buy 40 Eurofighter jets, though Germany has objected to the idea. Ankara has been urging Germany to align with the NATO spirit.
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