U.S. lawmakers reject F-16 sale to Turkey
Forty-one members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, opposing possible plans by the Biden administration to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
Lawmakers led by Chris Pappas, alongside Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis and Carolyn Maloney, requested more information from Blinken, asking about recent reports that Turkey requested to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets, along with modernisation kits for its existing warplanes.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan renewed Turkey’s request to buy the fighter jets, which would replace part of its aging air force fleet, during a meeting with the U.S. President Joe Biden on the margins of G-20 summit in Rome on Sunday. After the meeting, Erdoğan said Biden had responded positively to his request for new jets.
Turkey’s purchase of a first batch of Russian S-400 missiles in 2019 prompted the Pentagon to suspend it from a programme to develop and purchase F-35 stealth fighter jets. The expulsion was finalised on Sept. 23. A week later, the Turkish government sent a request to Washington for the purchase of the F-16s.
Maintaining the Russian defence missiles are incompatible with NATO systems and pose a security risk to its F-35 fighter jets, the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence procurement agency in December under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Turkey said it has no hesitation about buying more S-400s and is holding talks on the possible procurement, the country’s top defence procurement official said in September. Washington has called on Ankara to drop any plans to purchase more of the missiles or risk further punitive measures.
U.S. lawmakers cited four reasons for their opposition to the Turkish attempt to purchase F16s.
Since the CAATSA sanctions, “the Erdoğan government has made it clear that it has no intention of coming into compliance with U.S. law or dealing with the underlying conditions that led to Turkey’s ejection from the F-35 program and Congressional holds on purchases of American weapons,” the lawmakers said in their letter to Blinken.
The Block 70 modernisation kits also pose similar collocation risks if Ankara continues to possess Russian S-400s, according to the lawmakers.
The lawmakers also stated that while they would like to see Turkey anchored in the West, this goal will not be achieved “if the Erdoğan government escapes accountability for violating U.S. law and the standards of the NATO alliance”.
Last week, half a dozen advocacy groups from various ethnic and national backgrounds, including the Hellenic American Leadership Council, the Armenian National Committee of America, the American Friends of Kurdistan, the Hindu American Foundation, the Middle East Forum, the American Jewish Committee, PSEKA, the American Hellenic Institute, the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, and the Armenian Council of America sent a joint letter to Congress asking lawmakers to stop the sale of the American jets to Turkey.