Potential F-16 sale to Turkey draws criticism from US lawmaker

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After over a year of negotiations, the Biden administration intends to ask Congress to approve the sale to Turkey of 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 Vipers, 79 modernization kits for existing aircraft, and an array of ammunition. The potential sale is valued at $20 billion.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the administration hopes that the sale will inspire Turkey to approve the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO.

The news, however, drew immediate criticism from Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“As I have repeatedly made clear, I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of new F-16 aircraft to Turkey,” Menendez said in a statement seen by Politico. “President Erdogan continues to undermine international law, disregard human rights and democratic norms, and engage in alarming and destabilizing behavior in Turkey and against neighboring NATO allies.”

Diplomatic tensions over the Aegean Sea

In August 2022, Congress passed an amendment demanding that President Joe Biden certify Turkey has not “violated the sovereignty of Greece, including through territorial overflights” for at least 120 days before the sale of F-16 fighters.

Both countries have different boundary delineations over the Aegean Sea, leading to Turkish fighters regularly overflying inhabited Greek islands.

Coincidentally, the sale of 30 F-35A to Greece may be announced shortly after the Defense Security Cooperation Agency renders its decision on the Turkish order.

In July 2019, an order for more than 100 F-35 stealth fighter jets from Turkey was scrapped after tensions arose between Washington and Ankara as the latter chose to procure Russian-made S-400 missile systems. Since then, the Turkish Air Force has needed an alternative to modernize its fighter fleet. 

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