The United States on Monday did not confirm Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s comment
that Washington had made an offer to Ankara for the sale of F-16 fighter jets but
added that it has not made Turkey a financing offer for the warplanes, Reuters reported.
Erdoğan said on Sunday that the United States had proposed the sale of F-16 fighter
jets to Turkey in return for its investment in the F-35 program, from which Ankara
was removed after buying missile defense systems from Russia.
“We would refer you to the Turkish government to speak to its defense procurement
plans. What I can say is the United States has not made any financing offers on Turkey’s
F-16 request,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing.
Reuters reported earlier this month that Turkey 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.
Previously Ankara had also ordered more than 100 F-35 jets, made by Lockheed Martin
Corp (LMT.N), but the United States removed Turkey from the program in 2019 after
it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
Erdoğan said Washington had made the F-16 proposal in return for Turkey’s payment
of $1.4 billion that it made for the F-35 joint fighter program.
Asked if it was possible for that money to be used toward the purchase of F-16s,
Price said: “The Department of Defense continues to be engaged in a dispute resolution
mechanism with Turkey on the F-35 but I’m not going to prejudge the outcome.”
The decades-old partnership between the NATO allies has gone through unprecedented
tumult in the past five years over disagreements on Syria policy, Ankara’s closer
ties with Moscow, its naval ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. charges
against a state-owned Turkish bank and erosion of rights and freedoms in Turkey.
Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s has also triggered U.S. sanctions. In December 2020,
Washington blacklisted Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its chief, İsmail Demir,
and three other employees.