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With draft letters done, Turkey and US inch closer to concluding $23B F-16 deal

Turkey has concluded its part on draft letter of offer for the $23 billion sale, a Turkish official said.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

ANKARA — Turkey has concluded deliberations on a $23 billion sale package including 40 new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets from the United States, a Turkish official said on Thursday.

“Our relevant departments made the necessary assessments and evaluations on the draft letters of offer and acceptance and conveyed them to our counterparts,” a senior Turkish Defense Ministry official told Turkish reporters on background. “The process continues as planned.”

Those letters were sent by the United States in February, and Turkey has now completed its part by returning them to Washington. 

Separately, Lockheed Martin Vice President OJ Sanchez said the two sides are close to sealing a deal. “We're now in that phase where our teams are getting to the final stages of the FMS process,” Sanchez told Turkey's state-run Anadolu News Agency in an interview released also Thursday, referring to the process for foreign military sales.

“We're looking forward to hopefully concluding that very soon, and then talking about how we deliver that capability,” he added.

The signing of the contract could take place as soon as next month. "Once the US approves, the contract can be signed in June or July as planned,” Tolga Ozbek, a defense and aviation editor following the issue closely, told Al-Monitor.

Turkey requested to buy the F-16s in 2020 after its expulsion from the F-35 program over its purchase of Russia's S-400 missile defense system. But the Biden administration didn’t give the formal go-ahead for the sale until January, when Turkey approved Sweden’s NATO membership, dropping nearly two years of objections. The expansion of the transatlantic alliance became a key foreign policy agenda item for the Biden administration amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey’s approval of the Swedish bid and US State Department’s notification of Congress came almost simultaneously. Turkey previously announced it was seeking joint production of the F-16s and reimbursement of $1.4 billion it put down for the F-35 fighter jets before it was removed from the new generation stealth fighter jet program. Turkey was blocked from buying the F-35s and Turkish companies producing parts for the fighter jets were ousted from the international consortium in 2020 under the Counter Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act over its S-400 purchase. Congress passed CAATSA in 2017 to deter significant transactions with Russia.