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U.S. approves F-16 sale to Turkey, F-35s to Greece

January 31, 2024 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The United States has approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey along with a companion $8.6 billion sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to Greece.

TuAF F-16D block 50 #07-1027 from 161 Filo is taking off from Konya AB on May 13th, 2023 during exercise Anatolian Eagle. [Photo by Bob Fernandes]

The State Department notified Congress of its approval of the $23 billion F-16 sale to Turkey. The move came just hours after Turkey deposited its “instrument of ratification” for Sweden’s accession to NATO with Washington, which is the repository for alliance documents and after several key members of Congress lifted their objections.

The administration simultaneously informed Congress it wants to sell Greece, Turkey's longtime rival, up to 40 more advanced F-35 fighter jets in a deal worth up to $8.6 billion. It’s a move lawmakers sought amid tensions between the two Mediterranean neighbors.

Relations between both countries have significantly improved in the last year after a low point in 2022 when President Erdoğan threatened Athens with missiles.

The sale to Turkey includes 40 new F-16s and equipment to modernize 79 of Turkey’s existing F-16s

The sale to Greece includes 40 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and related equipment.

Turkish President Erdoğan’s stalling of Sweden’s accession to the NATO alliance was far from the only grievance that held up the deal. Turkey’s spotty human rights record, incursions into Greek airspace and purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system had increased tensions with the U.S.

Others criticized the approval of the deal in light of Turkey's human rights record and a list of other concerns, including Ankara's support for Hamas and President Erdoğan's cordial ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The sale of F-16s also comes after the U.S. booted Turkey from the program for the more advanced F-35 fighter, also built by Lockheed Martin. It seems hwoever that Turkey may even have the opportunity to return to F-35 club. The potential return was mentioned by the US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland on her visit to Turkey this week.

Turkey’s green light of Swedish Nato membership leaves Hungary as the last holdout in an accession process that Sweden and Finland began in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Additional images:

TuAF F-16C block 40 #90-0014 from 181 Filo is resting after a sortie during Anatolian Eagle 2022 at Konya AB on June 30th, 2022. [Photo by Alp Tekin]

TuAF F-16C block 30 #88-0021 SoloTürk from 132 Filo is seen taxiing after display during Anatolian Eagle 2022 at Konya AB on June 30th, 2022. [Photo by Alp Tekin]

TuAF F-16C block 30 #87-0019 was provided to TAI in 2012 as a testbed for locally designed electronics in the “Özgür” project. It was painted with digital camouflage in June of 2019. [TuAF photo]