The State Department on Monday approved a $259 million arms sale to Turkey that would upgrade the country’s F-16 fighter jets, a step that comes about two weeks after Ankara approved Finland’s NATO membership.
According to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the purpose of the arms sale is to “improve Turkey’s capability to meet current and future threats and assist in defending its homeland and U.S. personnel stationed there.” The principal contractor for the deal is Lockheed Martin.
Ankara is also looking to purchase 40 new F-16s, but some members of Congress don’t want to approve the deal until Turkey also approves Sweden’s NATO bid, and it’s not clear when that will happen.
The kits to upgrade Turkey’s current F-16s were initially supposed to be included in the deal for the 40 new fighter jets, which is estimated to cost about $20 billion.
The Biden administration has previously expressed support for selling the new F-16s to Turkey, but leading members of Congress have come out against it, including Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sweden is hoping Turkey will approve its NATO membership after the upcoming Turkish elections scheduled for May 14. Hungary has also held off approving Sweden’s NATO bid over Stockholm’s criticism of the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.