Talks between Turkey and the United States regarding Ankara's request to purchase 40 F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits will start next month, a U.S. official told YetkinReport on Nov. 9.
According to the official, F-16 talks are separate from those on the F-35s on a legal and technical basis because Turkey’s return to the F-35 program is no longer a subject of negotiations.
Reuters reported last month that Turkey had made a request to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
Turkish Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın confirmed the report shortly after, but noted that the issue was being evaluated.
Ankara had also previously ordered more than 100 Lockheed Martin F-35s, but the United States removed Turkey from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
Turkey’s exclusion from the F-35 program has created a gap in the air defense of the country and also on the southern flank of NATO, according to Turkish authorities. Turkish defense sources say they need F-16s until Turkey produces its own National Combat Plane (MMU).
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, offers Su-57 jets to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Speaking to journalists, the U.S. official on Nov. 9 said that the talks on F-16s will be held in Ankara.
"This is a very large, complex request. Many licenses will ultimately need to be submitted to Congress for tiered review," the official said.
"Previous licenses [from Turkey’s F-16 production program] do not apply to the current request. These are new platforms, new technologies, new licenses. This is a process of discussion between the U.S. Administration and Turkey at the technical level that will take many months. The Administration acknowledges the security needs of Turkey as an Ally and a strategic partner.”
On the F-35s, the U.S. official said that "Turkey is now formally out of the F-35 program."
"Full stop. It’s done. Turkey formally departed from the project as of Sept. 23," the official said.
"Turkish companies will continue producing F-35 parts for several months or a bit longer but then it will end. The production of those parts has already been contracted to other countries," noted the official.
On Turkey's human rights record, the official said, “We will continue to raise the issues of democracy and human rights in cases like Kavala."
The official was referring to a diplomatic crisis that erupted following 10 Western ambassadors' call to release philanthropist Osman Kavala. President Erdoğan was infuriated by the joint call and threatened the envoys with expulsion.