Should the US provide Turkey with F-16s?

Should the US provide Turkey with F-16s?

Following its exclusion from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program by the United States, Ankara is in consultations with Washington for the purchase of 40 new F-16 Viper fighter jets and the upgrade of 80 older ones it already has in its air force.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to boost the Turkish Air Force with F-35 stealth fighters, but that was put on ice after he insisted on acquiring the S-400 anti-missile system from Russia, a move that provoked strong reactions from the US and led to the imposition of sanctions by the Congress. In fact, a few weeks ago, the Turkish president stated clearly that he wanted to buy more S-400 batteries.

Having already invested 1.4 billion dollars in the F-35 program, Erdogan is seeking compensation for that amount and in this context it has offered Washington to buy new and upgrade older F-16s. This move by the Turkish president has its logic, as having a significant number of upgraded F-16s will allow the Turkish Air Force to remain strong while at the same time it will proceed with the very ambitious plan to build its own fighter jet.

For its part, the US is called upon to decide what to do on the basis of a realistic assessment of the prevailing conditions. In this context, two key questions arise: Does the Biden administration want to strengthen Turkey militarily at this point? It seems rather strange that the US would consider a country too unreliable to supply it with one type of American fighter, but reliable enough to give it another – both of advanced technology.

The second question has to do with whether the Congress will approve such a sale, considering that the climate among US legislators of both parties is negative toward Erdogan due to his behavior, both in terms of rhetoric and actions.

Regardless of whether Turkey secures the new planes and upgrades the old ones, Greece has already entered into its own agreements and in the coming years will have 84 Vipers and another 38 upgraded F-16s, as well as 24 Rafales ordered from France. 

All these state-of-the-art fighters constitute the most advanced weapons for both countries, in addition to the other, less advanced aircraft they have. And, in any case, it becomes clear from the facts laid out above that the power balance between Greece and Turkey at the air force level does not justify arrogance, nor the threats being launched from the other side of the Aegean.

Greece is proving a predictable partner and credible ally, worthy of the support it gets.

On the other hand, Washington’s decision makers at various levels have to decide whether to militarily reinforce Turkey, an unpredictable country that not only constantly threatens its NATO ally Greece, but increasingly opposes American policies and interests, and is willing to go so far as to buy weapons systems from its strategic rivals.

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