Turkey reportedly sent a request to the United States to acquire 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets as well as 80 kits to upgrade the ones its air force already operates, sources told Reuters.
Both parties refused to comment on the matter. “As a matter of policy, the Department does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress,” a spokesperson for the State Department told Reuters.
The modernization of the Turkish Air Force fighter fleet has been put on hold since Ankara’s participation in the F-35 program was canceled on July 18, 2019, scrapping an order for over 100 fifth-generation stealth fighter jets.
A dispute opposes the United States and Turkey since the latter chose to procure Russian-made S-400 missile systems. Based on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) which was enforced following Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and Syria, Washington warned Ankara that the delivery of S-400 systems meant the exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 program and could even lead to sanctions.
The United States also voiced its concern that integrating the S-400 and the F-35 in the same system could compromise sensible information regarding the aircraft.
Since then, several unsubstantiated rumors of procurements have emerged, including a potential order for 48 Sukhoi Su-35 jets offered by Moscow. Another Russian acquisition would undoubtedly increase tensions within NATO, already polarized over Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400, its strategy in Syria, and territorial disputes with Greece, another NATO ally.
Instead, Turkey may have taken a more diplomatic approach by relying on its current assets.