FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, December 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
On 30 January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Washington that it would pay a price if it refused to sell the F-35 fighter jets to Turkiye.
“Regarding the F-16s, we want these from you, but you haven’t given them, and you didn’t keep your word. Originally you were going to supply F-35s, but you didn’t keep your word. Although we paid about $1.4 billion, you gave nothing in return. If you give nothing in return, then you will pay the consequences,” said Erdogan, according to Turkish media.
His statement followed up comments by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier this month, saying that Ankara is seeking US approval for the sale of the F-16 fighter jets to Turkiye.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration proposed the sale of the new F-16 fighter jet to Turkiye but faces serious opposition from Senator Bob Menendez, who described a possible deal with Turkiye as “baffling.” Menendez chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (SCFR) and oversees the export of arms to foreign states.
“Until Erdogan ceases his threats, improves his human rights record at home… and begins to act like a trusted ally, I will not approve this sale,” Menendez stated.
The F-16 sale, which is reportedly worth $20 billion and includes 40 new fighters and 79 modification kits, must be approved by the State Department, the SCFR, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
When the deal to purchase the F-16s fell through last year, a Turkish publication speculated that Ankara would consider purchasing fourth-generation Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighters instead.
As the State Department attempted to persuade senators that the agreement was in their best interests, the US Congress excluded paragraphs related to restrictions on the sale of F-16 jets in its annual defense budget bill for the 2023 fiscal year in December 2022.
The dispute between the US and Turkiye erupted after the Turkish government decided to purchase S-400 missile defense systems built in Russia, which led to Ankara’s exclusion from the F-35 program. As a result, Washington revoked the sale of F-35 jets to Turkiye amid concerns that it would divulge sensitive information to Russia.
Erdogan stated that the US had offered Turkiye to purchase the fourth generation of the F-16 fighter jets rather than the fifth generation F-35s. Turkiye, however, reiterated in October 2021 that the Russian air defenses represent no threat to US or NATO security.