Turkey’s purchase of F-16 Viper fighter-bombers looks very off track, given that it is arousing strong opposition among elected members of the United States Congress. So much so that in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the year 2023, the House of Representatives passed an amendment making it nearly impossible.

As a reminder, excluded from the F-35 program for having commissioned Russian S-400 “Triumph” air defense systems, Turkey has announced that it intends to obtain 40 F-16 “Viper” and bring it to this standard. 80 of the older generation F-16s it already owns.

However, this file is crucial for Ankara, which fears to see its air forces being left behind by their Greek counterparts, which will have, in the long term, 24 Rafale F3R, at least 85 F-16 Viper and, very probably, 40 F-35A.

The amendment passed by the House of Representatives, requires the Biden administration to prove that the sale of F-16 Vipers to Turkey is absolutely essential to the security of the United States and to provide a “detailed description” of the measures that it would consider taking to ensure that these fighter-bombers are not used to “undermine the sovereignty of another member of NATO” [in short, Greece].

“If the United States proceeded with the sale of F-16s, these American-made fighter jets would undoubtedly be used to penetrate Greek airspace. This would violate the Arms Export Control Act, which only authorizes the transfer of equipment for legitimate self-defense operations,” argued the parliamentarians behind this amendment.

It remains to be seen what the Senate will do with it… several influential members of which are on the same wavelength as their counterparts in the House of Representatives.

That said, the White House is in favor of this sale of F-16 Viper to Turkey. Moreover, in June, during the last NATO summit in Madrid, President Biden had promised his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that he would do what is necessary to unblock this file. “I need congressional approval to do this and I think I can get it,” he said… Obviously, he had moved too quickly…

Anyway, the Turkish government does not intend to let go… And it will send a delegation to Washington, on August 15, to relaunch negotiations on this purchase of F-16V.

“Discussions for the acquisition of the F-16Vs continue. […] We have a meeting on August 15: we have been invited to the United States”, declared Hulusi Akar, the Turkish Minister of Defense, this August 9, without saying who was at the origin of this invitation. …

The fact remains that, and as one might expect, the conditions set by the House of Representatives are “unacceptable” for Ankara. “We hope that they will be lifted by the Senate,” said Mr. Akar, before stressing that “Mr. Biden’s approach [had been] very positive in Madrid”.

Perhaps an improvement in relations between Ankara and Athens would be likely to convince the American Senate to reconsider the amendment of the House of Representatives… But that is not the way to go. In June, Mr. Erdogan decided to break off the dialogue with the Greek authorities. Then, the following month, Turkey announced its intention to resume its exploration for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean… with the Abdulhamid Han, its new research vessel capable of drilling at a depth of 12,200 meters.



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