US lifted restrictions preventing the sale of F-16s to Turkey

WASHINGTON — The probability that Ankara will negotiate a sale of F-16 Block 70 with Washington in 2023 is already very high. BulgarianMilitary.com recalled that the US was denying the modernization of the Turkish F-16 fleet, as well as the purchase of the new F-16 model, due to restrictions in the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA]. The main reason for the restrictions until now was that Turkey was violating Greek airspace by using American-made weapons.

F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jet
Photo credit: Greek Air Force

In the new version of the NDAA, which includes the United States defense budget for 2023, the articles designated by the House of Representatives to limit the purchase of F-16 by Turkey were removed. Thus, possible sales of F-16s to Turkey are open. This change affects not only the acquisition of new fighters but also the modernization of the Turkish F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Turkey wants to buy 40 new F-16 Block 70 fighters, as well as an upgrade of at least 79 F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters. Despite the lifting of the bans, resistance from some members of Congress over arms sales to Turkey is expected in the coming months. New Jersey Senator and Democrat Mr. Bob Mendes have repeatedly stated that he will do everything possible to open F-16 sales to Turkey. According to Turkish media, Mendes is anti-Turkish and close to the Greek lobby in the US.

Ankara has been unhappy with Washington’s attitude in recent years, especially since previous versions of the NDAA imposed restrictions against Turkey. It got to a point where Turkish President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan even “threatened” his partners from Washington that planes can be bought not only from America, hinting that Turkey is ready to turn to France or Russia. “The United States is not alone in selling fighter jets. The United Kingdom, France, and Russia are also selling them. It is possible to get it elsewhere and some are already sending us signals,” Erdogan said.

Turkey has already started the modernization of part of the F-16 fighter jets. An indigenous AESA radar was developed in the country, which Ankara announced will be integrated into the F-16 in addition to the new attack drones. Ankara gradually began to replace American air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles with Turkish equivalents, developed primarily by Roketsan.

Turkey has begun avionics modernization of 35 F-16 Block 30
Photo: AeroTimeHub

Turkey’s dependence on Western manufacturers gradually began to decline. It is not only the US that is losing ground with its refusal to sell arms to Turkey in recent years. French Safran engines will also be removed from Turkish cruise missiles after others that meet the requirements have been developed locally. Turkey is developing its engine for both the Altai land-based main battle tank project and the TF-X next-generation fighter project. The country currently has indigenous equivalents of almost every cruise missile purchased over the years from foreign manufacturers.

The removal of restrictive provisions in the NDAA opens the door for Washington to recover the market lost in recent years. Negotiations for the sale of F-16s to Turkey have been ongoing since last year. A turning point was the last meeting on the subject this August, when the American president, Mr. Joe Biden, took responsibility to his Turkish counterpart for the US to allow the sale of fighter jets.

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