WASHINGTON — Very soon the Turkish F-16 fleet may receive the long-awaited update. According to information from Bloomberg, the US government may approve foreign sales of AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles [click here to learn more about AIM-120], as well as upgrade electronics by upgrading the software of Turkish F-16C / D fighters. Sources claim that the administration of US President Joe Biden has sent an informal request to Congress for such a sale.
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US-Turkey relations in international defense markets have deteriorated since Ankara decided to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems. Turkey has been dropped from the F-35 program, which expected at least 100 fifth-generation fighters. These relations also affected other activities in this area: the inability to renew the F-16 fleet, a ban on the export of American components used in Turkish systems, and a ban on the export of American engines used in Turkish helicopters.
However, Bloomberg writes that the United States is ready to rethink to some extent the continuation of future trade relations with Turkey. According to the prestigious business publication, the expected sale will be approximately $ 500 million.
BulgarianMilitary.com reminds us that Ankara has been trying for a long time to force Washington not only to renew the existing F-16 fleet but to buy new quantities from the latest developed version: F-16 Block 70/72. BulgarianMilitary.com has already written that actions have been taken in this direction.
In mid-April this year, according to Reuters, Congress was “positive” about such a deal. The news comes from a letter from the US State Department to Congress. At the heart of the State Department’s letter is that such a program is in the interests of US foreign policy and national security, as well as that of NATO.
The State Department letter, first reported by Reuters, is dated March 17 and was signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of State / Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at U.S. Department of State Naz Durakoglu.
BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that even if the agency approves the deal, it could be blocked by the US Congress. In late September 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not rule out the possibility of Ankara starting cooperation with Moscow in some areas, including shipbuilding and the development of fighter jets.
The case S-400
The reason Turkey currently does not have fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighters is Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia two years ago. This has caused dissatisfaction in both the United States and NATO member states.
Although NATO remained somewhat isolated from the dispute and more conservative in its statements, the United States took decisive action and expelled Turkey from the F-35 project. In addition to depriving Ankara of the opportunity to receive new fighters, this led to economic sanctions from Washington, which further aggravated the situation.
Turkey, for its part, is not giving up on Russian air defense systems. Described as the best in the world at the moment, Turkish officials have repeatedly stated that the price at which they were offered to buy the S-400 is much lower than the one that Washington has offered for its Patriots.
The situation is even more complicated, and Turkey’s chances of acquiring new F-16 fighters and modernizing its existing flotilla are dwindling, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed just days ago that Turkey will buy a second batch of the same Russian systems.
Is it just business?
Turkey says it sees no problem in using Russian S-400 air defense systems. According to military analysts, the reason Turkey turned to Russia was the high cost of US Patriot systems. But that system has failed in the last two years in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. They were repeatedly attacked with missiles at targets in the Green Zone of Baghdad, and Patriot was unable to intercept all the missiles. The same thing happened during the rocket and drone attack on the Aramco oil refinery in Saudi Arabia.
The United States claims that it is not compatible for the Russian S-400 air defense system to operate “under one flag” with their fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighters, because of link 16. Link 16 is the data and communication NATO and West standard. According to Washington, through the S-400 the Russians will be able to access sensitive data on stealth technology and the avionics of their F-35s.
It is known and proven that the Russian air defense system S-400 manages to intercept stealth aircraft and deal with them more successfully than any other air defense system in the world. Russia is already upgrading its anti-aircraft missile division with this system and has recently begun arming itself with its latest S-500 air defense system, believed to be able to counter hypersonic missiles or strike a satellite in low orbit around the Earth.
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