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US welcomes Turkey’s signing $23 billion F-16 jets deal

ANKARA — The US State Department on Thursday welcomed Turkey’s signing of an official letter that certifies the sale for an estimated $23 billion military sale package that includes 40 new F-16 Block 70 fighter jets, calling it “a major step” in talks between the two. 

“The United States welcomes [Turkey’s] signing of a Letter of Offer and Acceptance to purchase F-16s,” a State Department spokesperson told Al-Monitor. “This sale is an investment in NATO interoperability and will support the national security interests of the United States, Turkiye, and the NATO Alliance.”

The Turkish Defense Ministry announced in May the conclusion of its deliberations on a $23 billion sale package that includes 40 F-16 fighter jets and roughly 80 modernization kits for Turkey’s existing fleet. The relevant documents were sent to Washington.

“Getting this particular sale over the finish line took some time,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told journalists later on Thursday. “We’re glad to see that it’s moving forward.”

The comments by the State Department on Thursday indicate that the two sides agreed on the terms of the purchase. Along with the sale, Turkey is still seeking joint production of some parts of F-16s and reimbursement of the roughly $1.4 billion it put down for the F-35 fighter jets before it was removed from the new generation stealth fighter jet program in 2020. 

The United States “is proud to announce today a major step forward in [Turkey’s] purchase of new F-16 Block 70 fighter jets,” the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs posted on X on Wednesday. “Just the latest example of the U.S.’s enduring commitment to security partnership with Turkey.”

On Thursday, US Ambassador to Ankara Jeff Flake echoed a similar message about the sale package.

“Today marks an important step forward in [Turkey’s] purchase of the latest-generation F-16 Block 70 fighter jets,” he wrote on X. “This is good for U.S. national security, Turkish national security, and NATO interoperability.”

The Turkish Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said the procurement process for the purchase “continues positively” without elaborating further. Lockheed Martin produces these jets. 

The Biden administration formally endorsed the sale in January, after Turkey approved Sweden’s NATO membership. 

The Turkish greenlight to the NATO expansion also served as an icebreaker between Ankara and Washington after years of tension over disagreements on US support of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Forces (SDF), Turkish policy toward Israel and other issues. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan paid his first bilateral visit to the United States on March 7-8 since his appointment to his post last June. During the visit, the two countries announced a new “Defense Trade Dialogue” aiming to “advance defense industrial cooperation.”

Turkey had tabled its bid to buy new F-16s in 2020 after its ouster from the F-35 program over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. The removal was in accordance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which Congress overwhelmingly passed in 2017 to deter significant transactions with Russia. 


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