Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken in Washington on Wednesday to secure a $20 billion arms sale, but a key senator is still blocking it; plus, Lockheed already has a production backlog for the in-demand fighter jet.
But the U.S. State Department has yet to notify Congress of the potential deal formally, and a key senator has vowed to block it from proceeding.
If the sale clears Congress, Turkey may still have to wait a long time before it receives the new jets amid an F-16 production backlog.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has repeatedly said he will use his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to block the sale, and he hasn’t shown signs of backing down.
“I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of new F-16 aircraft to Turkey,” Menendez said in a statement. “President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan continues to undermine international law, disregard human rights and democratic norms and engage in alarming and destabilizing behaviour in Turkey and against neighbouring NATO allies.
“Until Erdogan ceases his threats, improves his human rights record at home — including by releasing journalists and political opposition — and begins to act like a trusted ally should, I will not approve this sale.”
But it remains to be seen how quickly F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin might be able to build those jets for Turkey.
“We have a significant backlog for F-16s,” Erin Moseley, vice president of strategy and business development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a July 2022 interview with Defense News at the Farnborough Airshow in England. Moseley also said international customers were showing a “massive interest” in buying new F-16s. reports defensenews.com
F-35s for Greece?
Menendez did praise another major arms sale involving Lockheed Martin: a pending deal for Greece to purchase 20 F-35As. Greece and Turkey continue to lobby the U.S. against the other country receiving fighter jets amid ongoing tension between the two NATO members.
“This defence capability is not only critical for a trusted NATO ally and enduring partner’s efforts to advance security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean but also strengthens our two nations’ abilities to defend shared principles including our collective defence, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Menendez said of the potential F-35 sale to Greece