(Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin)
A member of the Turkish Security Council, Cakri Erhan, said the Turkish government made a mistake by ordering F-16 fighter jets from Washington and should reconsider its purchase. Erhan stressed that this type of aircraft is “outdated” and that it cannot keep up with modern aircraft, RT Arabic reported on 6 March.
“Turkiye should immediately change its mind about the F-16s, we had another option which was the F-35, but now we have wider options, and we can buy Russian, Chinese, Pakistani, and even Eurofighter planes.”
Erhan also questioned the value of such a purchase due to the high cost of the US-made fighter jets, $20 billion, as Turkiye struggles to recover from last month’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which has taken some 50,000 lives in Turkiye and Syria combined.
Erhan’s suggestion that Turkiye withdraws from the purchase comes after the US Congress refused to authorize the sale of F-16s to Turkiye due to Ankara’s refusal to agree to admit Sweden and Finland to NATO.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on 20 February that the United States cannot sell American F-16 fighter jets to Turkiye without congressional approval after a group of US senators asked President Joe Biden to postpone the sale of fighter jets to Ankara until Finland and Sweden obtain Turkish approval for their applications to join NATO.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not approved Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership because Turkiye claims that both countries are harboring militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Erdogan says he would like these individuals to be extradited on terrorism charges, but Sweden refused.
Ankara previously chose Russian military hardware over the US-made equivalent when it purchased Russia’s S-400 missile system in 2017, in a deal worth some $2.5 billion, despite warnings from the United States and other NATO allies.
Turkiye accepted the first of four missile batteries in July 2019. A week later, the United States dropped Turkiye, a NATO ally, from the F-35 fighter program and threatened to impose sanctions on specific Turkish individuals.
“We object to Turkiye’s purchase of the system and are deeply concerned with reports that Turkiye is bringing it into operation,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman announced at the time. “It should not be activated. Doing so risks serious consequences for our security relationship.”
The S-400 first became operational in 2007. Compared with US Patriot missile systems, the Russian-made S-400 is believed to be superior, as it can engage a wider array of targets at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously.
The State Department offered in 2013 and 2017 to sell the Raytheon-made Patriot missile system to Ankara. But Ankara passed on the Patriot both times in favor of the S-400 because the US declined to provide a transfer of the system’s sensitive missile technology.