According to a Friday report, US President Joe Biden’s administration plans to ask Congress to approve the sale of $20 billion worth of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
The sale “is larger than expected” and includes 40 F-16 fighters and modernization kits for 79 of the warplanes already in Ankara’s possession, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed officials familiar with the matter.
Ankara ordered the F-16s and modernization kits in October 2021 in a deal previously estimated to cost $6 billion. Notification of the deal to Congress is expected to take place next week when Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu pays a visit to Washington. In addition to the fighter jets and upgraded equipment, the deal will include 900 air-to-air missiles and 800 bombs, the newspaper reported.
He added that the administration would not approve the package without Turkey agreeing to Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership. The administration will also request that Congress approve the sale to Athens of 30 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, which Greece originally requested in June.
The notification of the sales to Congress will open 30 days for lawmakers to raise objections. If Congress wants to block any sales, it will have to pass what is known as a joint resolution. Lawmakers have until the time of the weapons handover to do so, but Congress has never been able to pass such a resolution, according to the Congressional Research Service.
It is unclear if the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menéndez, will oppose the sale, as he has already threatened to do.
Turkey has been trying to modernize its existing warplanes to upgrade its air force and tried to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 jets and about 80 modernization kits from the US after it bought the F-35s. Fell out with the Trump administration.
US arms sales to Turkey became controversial after Ankara acquired Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems. The deal triggered US sanctions and Turkey’s withdrawal from the F-35 fighter jet program.
Relations between Ankara and Washington have been strained in recent years due to US cooperation with the YPG/PKK terror group in Syria, its inability to extradite the wanted head of the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ), disagreements over the purchase by Turkey of the Russian S-400 air defense system and Washington’s sanctions on Ankara.
The United States has said it cooperates with the YPG/PKK in northern Syria to fight the Daesh terror group. Still, Turkish officials say using one terror group to fight another makes no sense, moral or otherwise.