Washington wants to equip Turkey with ‘powerful fighter jets’ that will serve both US and NATO interests in Europe

In a letter to Congress, the US administration stressed that the proposed sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would enhance US and NATO security interests, particularly in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, report says.

“The administration believes that there are nonetheless compelling long-term interests in the unity and capabilities of the NATO alliance, as well as U.S. national security, economic and commercial interests that are underpinned by ties. appropriate defense trade with Turkey,” according to a letter sent by Naz. Durakoglu, senior State Department official for legislative affairs to Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“The proposed sale will require congressional notification should the State Department approve it. We affirm our commitment to established defense trade licensing procedures, including congressional oversight,” she added. .

Turkey’s active contributions to NATO, as well as its support for “Ukraine’s territorial integrity and cooperative defense relations”, were also highlighted by Durakoglu, who called them “a deterrent important against harmful influence in the region”.

Turkey had asked the United States in October to provide it with 40 F-16s and 80 kits to upgrade its existing fleet, according to the document acquired by Reuters. In late March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said talks with the United States were going well.

A Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon. (Wikimedia Commons)

The most recent letter also notes that the Turkish-American relationship is fraught with pitfalls. “We will continue to stress to Ankara the importance of maintaining interoperability with the alliance and using its military capabilities to support NATO efforts and advance our mutual goals while continuing to hold [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s government is responsible for actions contrary to our interests,” he stressed.

In late 2021, a letter to the White House was sent by more than 40 congressmen from the Republican and Democratic parties opposing the sale. The administration has previously said it wants to sell these fighter jets, but previously cited congressional resistance as a major obstacle.

F-35 Sales at Turkey

Turkey is aggressively trying to persuade the US to reinstate its participation in the F-35 program and resume sales of stealth jets it previously ordered.

In February 2022, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that talks with the United States to resuscitate the F-35 deal were going well. However, neither side reported further progress in resolving the US stealth fighter standoff.

Turkey had ordered more than 100 F-35 stealth fighters and was producing parts for their production. Despite repeated warnings from Washington, he proceeded to purchase Russian S-400 weapons. In 2019, the United States expelled Ankara from the F-35 program.

The purchase of S-400 missiles has been the biggest stumbling block for Ankara in reaching a deal with Washington. The Pentagon says F-35 jets will not be able to co-exist with a Russian intelligence-gathering platform that could be used against fighters.

Despite this, Turkey has declared that it will not be integrated into NATO systems. However, the United States was not persuaded by this argument.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously said Ankara would seek compensation for its withdrawal from the F-35 program.

“We have made a payment of $1.4 billion, what will happen next?” Erdogan was quoted as saying. “We don’t have – and don’t earn – that money easily. Either they’ll give us our planes or they’ll give us the money.

Last year, Turkish officials met with Biden administration officials to try to resolve the issue, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to lift the sanctions.

-35 flies in stealth mode as part of NATO Air Policing Europe on March 1, 2022. (via Twitter)

Defense experts, however, say the United States will not make a significant change in its policy to include Turkey in the F-35 consortium unless Ankara changes its position on the S-400 defense system. .

Even in the latest report, the United States maintains that the S-400 is incompatible with NATO systems and could be used by Russia to steal data from the F-35. Naz Durakoglu mentioned that the sanctions and the withdrawal of the F-35 represent “a significant price paid” for the acquisition of the S-400.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US officials reportedly offered to send Ankara’s S-400 missile defense systems to Kyiv along with their counterparts to help Kyiv fight Russian soldiers. However, Ankara flatly rejected the idea.

In addition, a Turkish official demanded that Ankara be allowed to join the joint F-35 fighter program, and that the Patriot missile defense systems be given “without conditions”.

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