The US government supports Turkey’s efforts to modernize its air force and could soon approve the sale of dozens of F-16 fighter jets, a senior Pentagon official said.
Speaking to reporters during a remote press briefing on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary for Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander said the long-stalled sale may soon go ahead, months after Ankara requested 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16s and around 80 upgrade kits for its existing fleet.
“These plans are in the works” but still need to make their way through “contracting processes,” she said, adding that Washington is in favor of “Turkey’s modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security.”
Turkey’s request for the planes last October followed a heated dispute over the newest US fighter jet, the F-35, which Ankara helped to develop in a multinational procurement initiative. Though it had already spent some $1.4 billion on the aircraft, Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 air defense systems in 2017 prompted a harsh reaction from Washington, which booted Ankara from the F-35 program and even placed sanctions on some officials involved in the S-400 sale.