Members of the US Congress are piling on pressure on the Department of State this week to prevent the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
On Thursday it emerged that a cross-party letter addressed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expresses opposition both for the acquisition of new F-16 fighter jets and the upgrading of existing ones.
The initiative belongs to Representatives Chris Pappas, Gus Bilirakis, and Carolyn Maloney and enjoys the support of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), as well as Armenian, Indian, and Kurdish organizations.
Turkey wants to Buy 40 F-16s from the US
It follows Turkey’s request earlier this month to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets and the modernization of almost 80 of its existing fighter jets.
The deal, worth billions, is still working its way through the Foreign Military Sales process which is subject to approval by the US State Department as well as the US Congress which can block deals.
Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35 jets, also made by Lockheed Martin, but was removed from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
On October 17, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that the US had “offered to sell a batch of F-16 fighter jets,” but the alleged sale has not yet been confirmed.
Letter of US lawmakers warns of risks of potential sale
The letter by the members of Congress notes that there has been no official response to Turkey’s request, but it warns of the risks if it is approved, given that Turkey possesses the Russian S-400s.
“One of the reasons Congress insisted on rejecting Turkey from the F-35 program was the significant dangers associated with the S-400 and F-35 merger. Experts note that the upgrade to Block 70 poses similar risks if Ankara continues to own Russian S-400s. Given that upgraded F-16s continue to play an important role for both us and our credible allies, this is a risk that we find unacceptable,” the letter says.
It also notes the indifference shown by the Turkish side to the US Sanctions Enforcement Act (CAATSA). “Less than a year after the CAATSA sanctions were imposed, the Erdogan government has made it clear that it has no intention of complying with US law or addressing the underlying circumstances that led to Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program.”
Just last month, President Erdogan announced his intention to buy an additional S-400. During a visit to Russia where he met President Putin, Erdogan declared that he has no intentions of changing its plans to purchase another round of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, as it did in August of 2019, despite the far-ranging sanctions levied on the country by the US for violations of NATO regulations.
He also stated that Turkey will work with Russia to jointly produce jet engines, warships and submarines.
“In the present circumstances [the sale of F-1gs] sends the wrong signal to Turkey and gives it reason to doubt our determination, as it continues to develop its military relations with Russia,” the letter to Blinken says.