Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that if the US Congress blocks the sale of F-16 warplanes to Turkey, Turkey may procure them from other countries such as the UK, France or Russia, local media reported on Friday.
The president implied that Turkey may turn to third countries if the US fails to follow through on a pledge to deliver F-16 fighter jets, to which Turkey turned its focus after a deal for the more advanced F-35 was scrapped due to Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile system.
“I hope the US does not lead us down a different path. They aren’t the only country in the world selling warplanes. The UK, France and Russia sell them as well. It’s possible to procure them from other places, and others are sending us signals to that effect,” Erdoğan told reporters following Friday prayers in İstanbul.
In 2002 Turkey joined several other NATO allies who agreed to buy the F-35, and five years later reached a deal to participate in its production, an agreement worth potentially billions of dollars to Turkish industry.
But just as the United States was preparing to deliver the first two of 100 aircraft planned for the Turkish air force, Ankara announced in 2017 that it was buying an S-400 battery from Russia.
One week after the Turkish ministry of defense received the first delivery of S-400 components in July 2019, Washington announced the cancellation of Turkey’s F-35 program.
US officials said the presence of the S-400, used to track and shoot down attacking aircraft, would allow the Russians — NATO’s primary adversary — to collect information on the aircraft’s crucial stealth capabilities.
Turkey then decided to buy F-16 jets to upgrade its aging fleet of American warplanes and with US-Turkish relations warming in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US President Joe Biden told Erdoğan in June that he would support the sale of the less advanced jets.