US President Biden revisiting Turkish F-16 upgrade

US President Biden revisiting Turkish F-16 upgrade

The talks between US President Joe Biden’s administration and the Congress that were reported on Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal, over the possibility of upgrading Turkey’s F-16 fighter jet fleet, have brought back to the fore the differences in perspective between the executive branch and the legislature on whether Ankara should be reinforced with US weapons while under sanctions over its procurement of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

A potential deal may include high-tech missiles, radar systems, and electronic warfare suites for the fighters.

According to the report, the Biden administration is sounding out Congress regarding the sale of AMRAAM and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, as well as $400 million worth of radar, which is essential for supporting existing Turkish Air Force F-16s. 

This follows a letter from the US State Department to Congress on March 17 backing a Turkish request to sell new F-16s and upgrade older versions, in line with US national security interests and the need for NATO unity – in response to an earlier bipartisan statement by senators against such a possibility.

Ankara’s request was submitted in October and includes the purchase of 40 new F-16 Block 70s (i.e. Vipers, to which 83 Greek F-16s have been upgraded) and the upgrade to the same version of 80 existing Turkish F-16s. 

The cost is estimated at about $6 billion and exceeds the financial loss that Ankara claims to have incurred as a result of its expulsion from Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation F-35 aircraft development program due to its procurement of the S-400s in 2017. The loss is estimated at about $1.4 billion and has been cited by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a key argument why Turkey should be supplied with F-16s.

However, many US officials remain critical, citing Erdogan’s leadership, which poses a regional threat.

​​​​​​Commenting on the Wall Street Journal article, Greece’s main opposition SYRIZA issued a press release lambasting Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his foreign policy decision.

The statement said that shortly before his official visit to Washington, Mitsotakis is pursuing, “to the detriment of the interests of the Greek people, the most dangerous foreign policy in the post-dictatorship era, at the most crucial moment for developments in our wider region.” 

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