F-16 Fiasco Finally Flies! US and Turkey Patch Things Up With Fighter Jet Deal

After a long delay due to political tensions, Turkey and the US have finally agreed on a deal for Turkey to purchase 40 new F-16 Block 70 Viper fighter jets.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Turkey reported that on June 6, 2024, an agreement was concluded between the Turkish Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. government (in the form of a government-to-government exchange of Letters of Offer and Acceptance – LOA) for the supply to Turkey, under the American Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, of 40 new Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 (Viper) fighter jets and an unspecified number of kits to upgrade

The contract parameters have not been disclosed, but on January 26, 2024, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the planned sale to Turkey of 40 new F-16V Block 70 (Viper) fighters through the FMS program, including 32 single-seat F-16C Block 70s and eight two-seat F-16D Block 70s, as well as 79 kits to upgrade existing Turkish Air Force F-16 fighters to the F-16V Block 70 level. The proposed sale was then valued at $23 billion, which included weaponry, training, and technical support packages, as well as modernization work.

According to the DSCA notification, the supply to Turkey will include 16 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP), 952 AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM medium- and long-range air-to-air guided missiles, 401 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder short-range air-to-air guided missiles, 96 AGM-88B HARM anti-radar missiles, 96 AGM-88E AARGM anti-radar missiles, and 2298 guided aerial bombs (864 GBU-39/B SDB-1, 850 GBU-31 JDAM, 200 GBU-31v.3).

Thus, the drama of supplying F-16V Block 70 warplanes to Turkey appears to be over. On September 30, 2021, the Turkish government made an official request to the United States to purchase 40 new-built F-16C/D (F-16V) Block 70 Viper fighters through the FMS program, as well as 80 modernization kits to convert current Turkish Air Force planes to this Block 70 type. The overall projected cost of the potential agreement was then set at $6 billion (excluding the cost of weaponry and, reportedly, upgrading work). However, due to escalating political tensions between the United States and Turkey, the American government postponed approval of the request.

Only at the beginning of this year, after Turkey accepted Sweden’s NATO membership following extensive political wrangling, did the American side ultimately approve this pact.

The Turkish Air Force’s acquisition of F-16V Block 70 fighters is expected to compensate for the United States’ refusal to supply Turkey with previously contracted fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters and Turkey’s subsequent official exclusion from the F-35 (JSF) program in April 2021. These actions were part of U.S. sanctions against Turkey for purchasing Russian S-400 air defense systems.

From 1987 to 2012, the Turkish Air Force received 278 F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fighters in various modifications (43 Block 30, 117 Block 40, 88 Block 50, and 30 Advanced Block 50+) through four programs coded Peace Onyx through the FMS program. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) assembled the majority of these aircraft in Akıncı near Ankara. Since 2012, 210 of these aircraft (37 Block 30, 101 Block 40, and 72 Block 50) have been updated in Turkey in conjunction with Lockheed Martin through the Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP) to a level comparable to Advanced Block 50+ analogs. The Turkish Air Force currently operates 243 F-16C/D aircraft (157 F-16Cs and 86 F-16Ds).

The 40 new F-16C/D (F-16V) Block 70 warplanes being procured would replace the Turkish Air Force’s 48 still functioning McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II fighters.

The F-16V Block 70/72 upgrade is the most sophisticated model of the F-16 series, and it has the new Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) with AESA. To date, Taiwan (66 aircraft), Morocco (24 aircraft), Bahrain (16 aircraft), Slovakia (14 aircraft), Bulgaria (16 aircraft), and Jordan (12 aircraft) have bought new F-16Vs. Serial production of the F-16V commenced in 2023 at Lockheed Martin’s Greenville, South Carolina facility, which is moving manufacturing from the Fort Worth, Texas plant.

Taiwan, Greece, Morocco, and Bahrain have also agreed to upgrade their existing fighters to the F-16V Block 70/72 variant (141 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters in Taiwan, 84 F-16C/D Block 52+ and Advanced Block 52+ fighters in Greece, 23 F-16C/D Block 52+ fighters in Morocco, and 19 F-16C/D Block 40 fighters in Bahrain). Taiwan became the first genuine user of the F-16V modification, with the first Taiwanese F-16A upgraded to the F-16V Block 70 level beginning flight testing in August 2018 and being officially turned over to the Taiwanese Air Force on October 19, 2018. The transfer of modernized aircraft to the Greek Air Force has been underway since September 2022.


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