Congresspeople urge Biden to nix F-16 sale to Turkey

A coalition of Members of Congress cosigned a bipartisan letter, calling on the Biden Administration to reject Turkish President Erdogan’s request to purchase next-generation F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits for their current fleet.  While Congressional reaction is understandable, it puts Biden in a tough position. Rejecting Turkey’s request after kicking the country out of the F-35 jet fighter program will give Ankara the cover to seek fifth generation Russian jets.


In a “Dear Colleague” letter encouraging fellow members of Congress to cosign the appeal to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Representatives Pallone and Bilirakis argue, “if approved, the sale of F-16s to Turkey will only incentivize President Erdogan to continue his destabilizing actions in the region and ignore his commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkish and Turkish-backed forces have repeatedly taken aggressive, deadly actions against U.S. allies and partners in the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, South Caucasus, and North Africa for years – often utilizing American-made weaponry and components to carry out these incursions and commit war crimes in places like Syria, Iraq, and Nagorno-Karabakh.”


The Congressional letter, set to reach the Biden Administration later this week, emphasizes security concerns surrounding Turkey’s ongoing use of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. “While this is antithetical to their commitments as a NATO ally and jeopardizes American national security, Erdogan uses this tactic consistently to pit the United States and Russia against each other to achieve his desired goals.” Members of Congress have until January 28th to support the appeal.


Coalition members echoed Congressional national security concerns surrounding Turkey’s proposed F-16 purchase.


“Turkey’s acquisition of next-generation F-16 aircraft, while defying NATO through its procurement of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles—the same missile system designed to target American-made F-16s – is deeply troubling, and cannot be allowed as a matter of national security,” said Richard Ghazal, Executive Director of In Defense of Christians.


Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, argued the sale would circumvent the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). “Whoever is entertaining the notion of this F-16 deal with Turkey is ignoring the law (CAATSA) and is ignoring the fact that Turkey is an unreliable ally. They have for the last several months ignored Congress’ enquiries into the matter. Representatives Pallone and Bilirakis make it clear that Congress has to be consulted and will insist that Turkey change its behavior, not merely its ask,” stated Zemenides.


“We join with our coalition partners in thanking the Co-Chairs of the Armenian and Hellenic Caucuses for leading this most recent expression of bilateral Congressional opposition to arming or abetting Turkey’s increasingly hostile and openly anti-American Erdogan regime,” remarked ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.


Diliman Abdulkader, co-founder & spokesperson of the American Friends of Kurdistan (AFK), argued that the F-16 sale would embolden an Erdogan crackdown on Turkey’s civil society. “Any upgrades to Turkey’s F-16 fleet directly threaten U.S. national security interests and puts our allies and partners in danger. Now is not the time to give the Erdogan regime leverage which he will certainly use to further crackdown on critical voices. AFK applauds Representative Pallone and Bilirakis on this matter,” stated Abdulkader.


Cliff Smith, Washington Project Director of the Middle East Forum, reminded Congressional stakeholders that, “Turkey was removed from the F-35 program because of their troubling behavior, as well as the incompatibility of sensitive American technology and Russian technology as a result of Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile. The issues of technology compatibility remain with F-16 upgrades, and Turkey’s behavior hasn’t changed for the better. If anything, it has gotten worse. Until Turkey changes its behavior, it shouldn’t even bother to ask for advanced military technology from the US.”


Samir Kalra, Esq., Hindu American Foundation Managing Director for Policy, welcomed Representative Bilirakis’ and Pallone’s leadership, citing Turkey’s disconcerting relationship with Pakistan. “Beyond Turkey’s misuse of American weapons against US allies in Turkey’s neighborhood, there is a growing and dangerous military relationship between Turkey and Pakistan that is a real concern to millions of Americans who support upholding U.S. law and ensuring that sophisticated U.S. military components that are vital to our national security don’t end up in the wrong hands,” stated Kalra.


Since rumors of Turkey’s request to purchase 40 F-16 fighters and 80 F-16 modernization kits surfaced in October 2021, a number of Congressional initiatives have called for clarification of the White House position on the sale and announced efforts to block the effort. In November, over 40 U.S. House members cosigned a letter led by Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH), and Congressional Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Bilirakis and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), concerned that such a sale would be in violation of CAATSA laws. “We share your goal of a Turkey that is rooted to the West, but we will not achieve that goal if the Erdogan government escapes accountability for violating U.S. law and the standards of the NATO alliance,” argued the Representatives. The House members requested “a formal notification of any Turkish Letter of Request (LOR), the specifics of such an LOR, the Administration’s position on such an LOR, and responses to our specific objections.”


A separate letter led by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) and cosigned by 10 House colleagues urged President Biden and Secretary Blinken to refuse Turkey’s request. “As long as President Erdogan advances his expansionist project in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey will continue to threaten our national security and the security of our closest allies in the region – Greece, Israel, and Cyprus. We urge you to act in our national interest and for the sake of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean by refusing to reinforce Turkey’s aging arsenal of fighter jets, and we look forward to receiving your response,” stated the Malliotakis letter.



The signatories are a very diverse coalition of varying ethnic, faith and interest groups, which attests to the repugnance with what is perceived as Turkey’s anti-American policies.


Yet, it is not clear what will be achieved by denying Turkey, still a NATO member and potentially a bulwark against Russian expansion in Black Sea and Balkans (for Turkey’s own objectives, of course), the much needed equipment to update its gain air force.


Comments by PATurkey editorial board


Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.