Turkish F-16 jet during a joint exercise with NATO over the Mediterranean sea on 15 September 2022 (Photo Credit: AP)
In an interview with CNN Turk on 3 November, the spokesman of the Turkish presidency, Ibrahim Kalin, revealed that the US congress intends to approve Ankara’s purchase of F-16 fighter jets, ending a year long ban.
Kalin added that “the administration of President Joe Biden is making sincere efforts to convince the congress,” thanking the diplomatic efforts to persuade the US officials.
“It is not easy to give clear expectations, but it seems that there is a high probability of completing the process in the next month or two,” said Kalin.
Turkey intends to buy fotyu F-16 fighters and equipment to modernize eighty other jets from its aging fleet, in a deal estimated to be worth $6 billion.
Earlier in October, the US senate dropped two preconditions from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill, that would have restricted the sale of jets to Turkey unless deemed necessary for US national security.
Moreover, the conditions stipulated that “F-16s or modernization kits will not be used in repeated violations of Greek airspace,” reads the bill submitted by US Senator Bob Menendez.
The conditions, had they stayed in place, would have restricted the sale of any US weapons, upgrades, or technology to Turkey, as several US lawmakers have opted to increase pressure on their top NATO ally.
The tension between both states was flared by Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 defense missile system, triggering US sanctions and sidelining Ankara from the 5th generation F-35 advanced fighter jets.
As the result of the US ban on sales, the Turkish military industry launched the ÖZGÜR project to modernize its F-16 Block 30 fleet, and circumvent the undeclared sanctions on maintenance and upgrades.
Reportedly, Turkey owns 270 F-16C/D jets, however ÖZGÜR’s scope will be limited to Block 30, considering it is the only fleet to which Ankara has full access.
This would allow the army to integrate locally developed technology into the jet and start testing its new modernized prototypes through a serialized modernization plan, according to online news website SavunmaSanayiST.
Aviaci Online, a Spanish aviation website, reports that Turkey intends to modernize its jet’s onboard computer, the pilot’s user interface, engines, and radars.
In brief, the army intends to overhaul the decade’s old jet and prepare it for the challenges posed in the 21st century.
Nonetheless, this was not enough to satisfy Turkey’s ambitions and plans to acquire a modernized fleet, and has pushed the country to look for alternatives.
On 23 September, Kalin informed the media that Ankara is negotiating with Europe to purchase its Eurofighter Typhoon jet.
“Turkey will never be without alternatives,” stressed Kalin just months after General Hasan Kucukakyuz, commander of the Turkish Air Force, visited the UK to inspect its Typhoon fleet.
Similarly, Ankara taunted the US about its intentions to purchase Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker jets, as hinted by Erdogan when asked about alternatives, stating “it is possible to obtain [jets] everywhere; some signaled us.”