The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the government of Turkey to support upgrading its current F-16 aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $259m. 

According to a statement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Government of Turkey has requested to buy defence articles and services to support its current fleet of F-16 aircraft. 

The contract includes software upgrades of the operational flight program (OFP) avionics with the automatic ground collision avoidance system (AGCAS) capability; hardware modifications to enable integration of the multifunctional information distribution system block upgrade II (MIDS BU II). 

The F-16 Block 70 aircraft will operate until 2060. Turkey’s fleet consists of Block 40 and 50 F-16 aircraft, but the country intends to modernise their fleet to a Block 70 standard through avionics contracts.

However, Turkey is developing its own fifth-generation fighter aircraft that will eventually replace the country’s fleet of F-16s, according to GlobalData’s report on “Turkey’s Defense Market 2023-2028“.

The proposed sale will improve Turkey’s capability to meet current and future threats and assist in defending its homeland and US personnel stationed there. The principal contractor for the sale will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Fort Worth, Texas.

The proposed sale comes amid increased tensions between the US and Turkey over various issues, including the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems by Turkey. The US has sanctioned Turkey over purchasing the S-400 systems, which it says are incompatible with NATO defences.

GlobalData’s report on Turkey’s Defense Market states that the US/Turkey relationship has been turbulent. The US has been increasingly wary of the prospect of the S-400 being used to gather intelligence on its F-35 platform. As such, the US decided to terminate Turkish participation in the F-35 program.

Madeline Wild, an aerospace, defence, and security analyst at GlobalData, provided her take on the matter, “The recent FMS approval does not speak to thawing relations between the countries. Instead, the approval signifies US desire to secure NATO’s Southeastern flank, in particular the Black Sea region.

By providing Turkey with the necessary upgrades for its F-16 fleet, the US can help to uphold Black Sea regional stability and security through Turkey’s presence and influence in the area.”

Despite their differences, approving the F-16 upgrades could be a sign of improvement of relations between the two countries. The proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States and help strengthen the defence capabilities of Turkey.