Immediate sale of F-16V fighters to Turkey – the White House

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The Biden administration has made a plea to the US Congress, pressing for an “immediate” green light to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. Insiders state that once Turkey gives its approval for Sweden’s attempt to join NATO, President Biden aims to kickstart the fighter jet-selling process. 

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Details from the letter indicate that the Biden administration is lobbying for consent to sell an unspecified number of F-16 fighter jets, along with upgrade kits, at an estimated cost of $20 billion. Concurrently, the US State Department is pressing Turkey to expedite its ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership request. 

During a Jan. 24 briefing, Vedant Patel, a press officer from the State Department, remained tight-lipped about specifics concerning possible F-16 deliveries to Turkey. He stated, “Until they are officially notified to Congress, I won’t confirm or jump the gun on any proposed arms sales or transfers, keeping in mind that Congress is instrumental in examining these arms sales.” 

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Turkey “accepted” Sweden in NATO 

On January 23, an overwhelming majority of the Turkish Parliament gave the green light to ratify NATO membership for Sweden. Once the decision was taken, it was swiftly delivered to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who required his signature for final approval. 

Among the prerequisites to waive the veto on Sweden entering NATO was the procurement of American-built fighter jets by Ankara. Rewind to October 2021, Turkey made a request to the United States to acquire 40 F-16 fighter jets along with 79 upgrade kits for their existing fleet of military aircraft. 

Photo credit: Adem Altan—AFP/Getty Images

However, the plan hit a roadblock when US lawmakers wielded their power to halt this sale due to concerns about human rights violations in Turkey. But in December 2023, a ray of hope emerged when President Joe Biden, in a talk with President Erdogan, assured him he would exert his influence on Congress and endeavor to persuade lawmakers to greenlight the F-16 sale. 

Erdogan’s maneuvers 

Washington’s recent decision not to sell new F-16 fighter jets, nor revamp Turkey’s current F-16 fleet, has led to the Turkish president’s reciprocal actions over the past few months. 

Photo by David Donald

With a pressing need for new fighter jets, Turkey first approached Britain and Germany to secure the Eurofighter Typhoon. While London was on board, Berlin hesitated. This led to widespread discontent among Germany’s labor unions, who demanded that Berlin accept the proposal, warning that the future production of Eurofighter jets could be jeopardized. 

In the meantime, rumors arose that Erdogan was considering the purchase of the Chinese JF-17 fighter jet. Although deemed an unlikely choice for Turkey, experts asserted that this was Erdogan’s ploy to pressure Washington into selling F-16s. 

However, the plan seemingly crashed and burned, as the US conditioned the deal on Sweden’s inclusion in NATO. Consequently, Ankara had a sudden change of heart regarding its anti-Swedish stance, a sentiment that was rooted in Turkey’s allegations that Sweden was in cahoots with PKK, a recognized terrorist organization. 

Photo by Stephan De Bruijn

What is PKK 

When you hear Erdogan mention “terrorists,” what he’s specifically referring to is a group known as the Kurdish Workers’ Party, commonly abbreviated as the PKK. This organization is rooted in Marxist Kurdish separatism and has a history of engaging with Turkish forces, dating back to the periods of the 1980s. Predominantly, their operations are based in southeast Turkey and parts of northern Iraq. 

Turkey officially classifies the PKK as a terrorist group, a sentiment that is echoed by other global powers including the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the European Union. Interestingly, Sweden was one of the first nations to categorize the PKK as a terrorist entity back in 1984. 

What is F-16V? 

The F-16 Block 70, also known as the F-16V, is the latest variant of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force. This advanced aircraft is designed and produced by Lockheed Martin, a leading global security and aerospace company. 

The F-16 Block 70 boasts several significant technical characteristics that set it apart from its predecessors. It is equipped with an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array [AESA] radar that provides the pilot with unprecedented target area detail and digital map displays that can be tailored with slew and zoom features. The aircraft also features an upgraded mission computer and state-of-the-art avionics, including a high-resolution, center pedestal display and a high-volume, high-speed data bus. 

Another notable characteristic of the F-16 Block 70 is its operational range. The aircraft has a maximum range of over 2,620 miles [4,220 kilometers] without in-flight refueling. This range is significantly extended with the use of drop tanks and in-flight refueling, allowing the aircraft to conduct longer missions without the need for frequent landings. 

The F-16 Block 70 is also known for its impressive armament. It can be armed with a variety of air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM, and AIM-7 Sparrow. For air-to-ground missions, it can carry AGM-65 Maverick and AGM-88 HARM missiles. In addition, the aircraft can be equipped with a variety of bombs, including laser-guided bombs, and has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon for close-in combat.

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