Turkey begins procedure to purchase F-16s from US

Ankara has begun the procedure to Acquire F-16 fighter jets from the United States as compensation for being dropped from F-35 program, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar says. The deal was announced by Turkish President Receb Tayyip Erdogan, but Washington has yet to confirm it.

“Technical work” has started on Turkey’s purchase of US-made Block 70 Viper F-16s, Akar has said.

Akar’s remark came after a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. He added the purchase of the warplanes and the modernization of older F-16s in the Turkish fleet “also means the strengthening of NATO defense.”

The purported deal was first announced by Erdogan. On his return flight from an African tour on Sunday, he told journalists the US had offered it as compensation for Turkey’s investment in the F-35 program, which it was pushed out of under the Donald Trump administration in retaliation for its decision to purchase Russian S-400 long-range air defense systems.

“There is the payment of $1.4 billion we have made for the F-35s and the US had such a proposal in return for these payments,” Erdogan said.

“We are working to further develop our fleet from the modernization of the F-16s in our possession to new additional F-16 purchases,” he added.

Washington would not immediately comment on Erdogan’s remarks. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated that “the Department of Defense continues to be engaged in a dispute resolution mechanism with Turkey on the F-35 but I’m not going to prejudge the outcome.”

Turkey’s purchase of the Russian systems went through despite vocal objections from the US, which alleged that the hardware would give Moscow an opportunity to study the characteristics of F-35 warplanes and thus compromise all nations operating them. Ankara intended to buy 100 F-35s.

The Russian deal also led the US to sanction Turkish entities involved in its sealing. Turkey’s military procurement body, the Defence Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees ended up on Washington’s blacklist.

Ankara indicated it considered buying more of the Russian-made anti-aircraft missile systems and potentially other military equipment.

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