Turkey and the United States sign agreement for the sale of F-16 fighter jets

Worth 23 billion dollars
Avión de combate General Dynamics F-16 en la pista durante la exhibición estática del Salón Aeronáutico Internacional de París en el aeropuerto de Le Bourget – PHOTO/Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/NurPhoto vía AFP
General Dynamics F-16 fighter aircraft on the runway during the static display at the Paris International Air Show at Le Bourget Airport - PHOTO/Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/NurPhoto via AFP

Turkey and the United States have signed a contract for the sale of F-16 fighter jets following Washington's approval of the deal after several months of negotiations, Turkish Defence Ministry sources said.

"The contract has been signed and delegations from both sides are negotiating the details," the ministry sources said, as reported by AFP and Reuters.

Under the deal, Turkey will receive 40 new F-16 fighter jets and will benefit from the modernisation of 79 of its existing fleet.

The US executive gave the go-ahead for the 23 billion dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey at the end of January, just days after Ankara ratified Sweden's membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The United States waited for the instruments of Turkey's ratification of Sweden's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance to be physically deposited in Washington.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who for many months blocked Sweden's entry into NATO because of Sweden's rapprochement with Kurdish opposition elements considered terrorists by the Turkish regime, had also made Sweden's membership conditional on the "simultaneous" approval by the United States of the sale of F-16 fighter jets to his country. It should be recalled in this case that for a country to join NATO there must be unanimity on the part of all NATO members, and in Sweden's case Ankara's approval was lacking. 

El presidente de Turquía, Recep Tayyip Erdogan - PHOTO/FILE
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - PHOTO/FILE

Proof of the good feeling is that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to visit Washington in July to attend a NATO summit, an entity in which Turkey has great weight due to the size of the Turkish army, which gives it great value within the Atlantic Alliance. Turkey's leader was scheduled to meet US President Joe Biden last month in what would have been his first meeting at the White House, but the talks were postponed due to scheduling problems. 

The US State Department hailed the deal on social media as "a major step forward" in Turkey's acquisition of advanced fighter jets. The Department itself highlighted the importance of the sale of "the most advanced F-16s available to only the closest allies and partners".

The sale of these F-16s underlines the good understanding between the United States and Turkey in the security and defence sphere, since, as the US State Department noted, these aircraft are reserved only for close allies. 

Following legal procedure, the State Department notified Congress of the deal in January, along with a separate sale of 40 F-35 fighter jets to Greece for 8.6 billion dollars, although the F-16 deal was not approved until Washington confirmed that Turkey was allowing Sweden to join NATO. 

El logotipo de la OTAN se ve en una reunión del Consejo del Atlántico Norte en la sesión de ministros de defensa de la OTAN junto con Suecia como invitada, en la sede de la Alianza en Bruselas, Bélgica, el 15 de febrero de 2024 - REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON
The NATO logo is seen at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the NATO defence ministers' session with Sweden as a guest, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2024 - REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON

Turkey's parliament ratified Sweden's membership in January, after more than a year of delays due to political clashes between Ankara and Stockholm. 

In April 2021, the United States expelled Turkey from the F-35 aircraft programme, which is more advanced than the F-16, because it purchased S-400 air defence systems from Russia and it was unacceptable for an Atlantic Alliance member like Turkey to have close military and defence contacts with the Russian regime. Later that year, Erdogan mentioned that the US proposed to Turkey to buy F-16 aircraft, which are less advanced than the F-35. However, this deal required the approval of the US Congress and faced strong opposition from many lawmakers.

The objection was mainly related to Turkey's stance on Sweden's NATO candidacy.

Avion F-16 Viper norteamericano - <a  data-cke-saved-href="https://depositphotos.com/es/?/" href="https://depositphotos.com/es/?/">Depositphotos</a>
American F-16 Viper aircraft - Depositphotos

Turkey remains highly relevant within the Atlantic Alliance due to the size of its army and is also a key nation due to its geopolitical situation between Europe and the Middle East, which gives it a very important role as a mediator in various conflicts, along with its important role in controlling migratory flows, especially of various nationalities such as Syrians. 

On the other hand, Turkey has also moderated its stance in recent years, moving away from its approach to dangerous partners such as Russia and Iran and lowering the tone of its oppression of the country's internal opposition. This scenario has led the Ottoman country to move closer to the West, which suits it well given the need for greater economic and trade agreements in order to emerge from the crisis in which the country is immersed, in need of significant income and investment from abroad.