On Wednesday, the Biden administration expressed public support for an F-16 sale to Turkey, which came the day after Ankara lifted its objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
Back in October, Turkey requested to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its current fleet of warplanes. Wednesday marked the first time that the Biden administration made its support for the potential deal known.
“Strong Turkish defense capabilities contribute to strong NATO defense capabilities,” said Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. “The US Department of Defense fully supports Turkey’s modernization plans for its F-16 fleet.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday, and the two leaders held talks for about an hour. The F-16 deal was expected to be a priority of the meeting, but it’s not clear if the issue was discussed.
In a readout of the meeting, the White House said Biden “welcomed Turkey’s conclusion of a trilateral agreement with Finland and Sweden that paved the way for Allies to invite them to join NATO.”
Ankara managed to get some concessions out of Sweden and Finland, including the lifting of export controls that the Nordic nations imposed in 2019. Sweden and Finland also vowed not to support Kurdish militant groups that Turkey considers terrorist organizations and said they would respond to Turkey’s extradition requests for suspected terrorists.
The F-16 deal could be Ankara’s reward from Washington for lifting its objection. Turkey also wants to return to the F-35 training program, and for the US to lift sanctions it imposed over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems.