On Monday (April 17), the administration of US Vice President Joe Biden informed Congress of its intention to sell Turkey avionics software updates for its existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets in a transaction valued at up to $259 million.
The deal, first reported by Reuters on Monday, goes ahead with the sale of the modernization package for Turkey’s aircraft after US congressional committee leaders gave informal approval.
The proposal of NATO member Turkey to purchase F-16s, which would cost billions of dollars, is still in limbo as a result of persistent resistance in Congress. The package will be the first large military sale to Turkey approved by Congress in years if it passes during the formal approval process.
A United States Department of State representative said, “Turkey is a long-standing and valued NATO ally.” A senior administration official said, “The Biden Administration supports Turkey’s efforts to upgrade the avionics of its F-16 fleet.”
The spokesperson noted that the modernization would improve interoperability between Turkish and NATO systems by upgrading their communications and will also provide enhancements to increase safety measures, such as a ground collision avoidance system.
The F-16 modernization deal comes after Turkey approved Finland’s accession to the NATO military alliance and after signs of easing tensions between Turkey and neighboring Greece ahead of Turkey’s elections next month. Lockheed Martin Corp will be the prime contractor on the deal.
The package is separate from the proposed sale of $20 billion of new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters and nearly 80 retrofit kits that Turkey requested in October 2021.
A source close to the negotiations revealed that the administration pressured parliamentarians to support the smaller package to send a “positive signal” to Ankara. The approval does not mean the larger sale will get a green light from Congress, as US lawmakers seek assurances from Turkey on issues beyond NATO’s Nordic expansion.
Those issues include definitively easing tensions with Greece, refraining from an invasion of northern Syria, and applying sanctions against Russia. Such conditions are likely to infuriate Turkey, which has claimed that the US has “endless” demands regarding the sale of F-16s and that Washington’s behavior is unfair.