F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Turkey and US disagree over F-16 deal

March 19, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Turkey and the US failed to reach agreement on production and delivery of F-16s. It seems that Lockheed Martin cannot meet Turkish Air Force requirements regarding an accelerated delivery schedule of 30 F-16 block 50 jets.

TuAF F-16C block 50 #94-0094 is going ballistic during an official photo shoot. [TuAF photo]

Procurement Officials said the Turkish Air Force wants Lockheed Martin to begin delivering the F-16s in 2009, with completion about a year later. For its part, Lockheed Martin has proposed that deliveries start in 2014.

Turkey plans to buy the Lockheed-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as its next-generation fighter, and expects to spend nearly $10.7 billion for 100 aircraft over the next 20 years. Under current plans, F-35 deliveries to Turkey should start in 2014.

As a stop-gap solution until then, Ankara last year decided to buy 30 advanced F-16 block 50 multi-role fighters. The U.S. Congress approved the planned sale in October, paving the way for contract negotiations between the U.S. company and the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey's procurement agency. But the talks faced troubles.

"We regard the F-16 as an interim solution to the Joint Strike Fighter," an official said. "But if the F-16 will come at the same time as the F-35, there's no point in spending the money [on the F-16]."

The military and procurement officials both said that unless an agreement was reached on the timing of deliveries, Turkey might have to abandon the new F-16 plan.

Lockheed Martin officials said talks were continuing with Turkey and that the company was working to satisfy the customer.

The Air Force's desire to continue to stick to the American school was a key factor in Ankara's decision last year to opt for the F-35 over the European-built Eurofighter Typhoon as the country's next-generation fighter.

Turkey's current F-16s were co-produced by Tusas Aerospace Industries at a plant near Ankara in the 1980s and 1990s under two agreements with Lockheed Martin.

This time, Turkey plans to buy the new F-16 Block 50s under a U.S. government Foreign Military Sales program. The planned sale to Turkey also includes the planned purchase of 42 F110-GE-129 engines, radar systems, software integration, spare parts and support services.

Last year, Turkey and Lockheed Martin signed a deal modernize at least 117 of their older F-16s, with an option for the upgrade of another 100 platforms.