US approves $23 billion F-16 fighter aircraft sale to Turkey

The long-awaited $23 billion (£18 billion) sale of 40 new F-16 fighter fighters to Turkey has been approved by the US administration, after Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership. For 79 Turkish F-16s currently in service, modernization kits are part of the contract. The US State Department informed Congress that it has also authorized the $8.6 billion sale of 40 F-35 warplanes to Greece. Sweden’s NATO membership was ratified by Turkey following a delay of almost a year that raised ire inside the alliance.

It first requested the jets in 2021, but a significant roadblock was its inability to ratify Sweden’s NATO candidacy. Concerned over what it perceived as Sweden’s backing of Kurdish separatists.  However, Sweden’s petition was approved by Turkish MPs this week, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan provided his final approval. Then US President Joe Biden appealed for the approval of the F-16 sales “without delay”. Turkey’s significance as a NATO bulwark in the Black Sea region increased in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of the four important panels that must approve arms exports, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, stated, “My approval of Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 aircrafts has been contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s Nato membership.” “But make no mistake: This was not a decision I came to lightly.” He stated that in addition to doing more to hold Russia responsible for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Turkey needed to do better when it came to human rights. Currently, Hungary is the only NATO member that has not ratified Sweden’s membership, despite recent indications of progress. After Ukrainian pilots have received the necessary training, the US approved last year the transfer of American-built F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands to Ukraine.

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