January 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Approves F-16 Sales to Turkey

January 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Approves F-16 Sales to Turkey

Latest Analysis

The Biden administration approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey on January 26 after Ankara ratified Sweden’s bid to join NATO. The State Department notified Congress that it approved the $23 billion deal that would provide 40 new F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to Turkey and equipment to modernize 79 F-16s from Turkey’s existing fleet. The State Department simultaneously approved an $8.6 billion sale to provide 40 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets to Greece, another U.S. ally with which Ankara has a territorial dispute on the island of Cyprus.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan conditioned his approval of Sweden’s NATO membership on U.S. approval of the F-16 deal. Members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees — which have oversight over arms transfers — voiced concern over the sale, citing Turkey’s human rights record and its aggressive stance toward Greece.

Expert Analysis

“The Turkish government has been supporting Hamas, enabling ISIS, laundering money for Iran, and purchasing Russian military hardware. Domestically, this government has become increasingly autocratic. This F-16 sale was a moment where the Turks wanted something from us. We could have demanded some change in return. We didn’t. Once again, American leverage has been squandered by the White House.” Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“It’s great to see the Biden administration approve the sale of F-35s to Greece. A Greek military with F-35s will be more capable, will be able to operate more effectively with U.S. forces, and will be an even greater source of stability and deterrence on NATO’s southeastern flank. Ankara earned its eviction from the F-35 program. It’s important to remember that there is a huge difference between F-35s and F-16s.” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“From a national interest perspective, Turkey has gained nothing from holding up Sweden’s accession. It has alienated and marginalized itself inside the alliance and further embittered its relationship with the United States. The F-16 sale that has now been authorized could have been achieved 20 months earlier had Erdogan approved Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO when they first applied.” Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

U.S. Dropped Turkey From F-35 Program

Turkey was part of the F-35 program, but the Pentagon removed it from the program in 2019 after Turkey purchased Russian S-400 air defense systems. The Pentagon cited interoperability concerns in its decision, and the U.S. imposed some sanctions on Turkey as a result of the S-400 purchase. The F-35, a fifth-generation fighter, is more capable than the much older F-16s. Before being dropped from the program, Turkey produced more than 900 F-35 components.

Turkey’s Hamas Support Strains U.S. Relationship

Erdogan has strained Turkey’s relationship with the United States and Western Europe through his anti-Western policies, ratcheted up his rhetoric against Israel, and maintained what he called a “special relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan has offered haven to leaders of Iran-backed terrorist groups, giving Hamas financial and material support and providing citizenship to key Hamas leaders. Israeli authorities seized 16 tons of explosive material shipped from Turkey and bound for Gaza in July 2023, apparently intended for Hamas rockets. In December, the United States and the United Kingdom sanctioned eight Hamas financiers living in Turkey.

Turkey’s Parliament Ratifies Sweden’s NATO Application,” by Sinan Ciddi

Sanction the Hamas nongovernmental organization in Turkey,” by Sinan Ciddi and Jonathan Schanzer

Turkish and Iranian Presidents Meet and Condemn Israel,” FDD Flash Brief


Military and Political Power Turkey U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy