U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is set to move ahead with the sale of a modernization package for Turkey's existing F-16 aircraft, after leaders of U.S. congressional committees gave informal approval, sources familiar with the matter said.
A larger agreement, NATO member Turkey's request to buy billions of dollars worth of F-16s, remains in limbo amid continuing opposition in Congress.
The U.S. State Department could send the formal notification for the smaller sale, which includes radars and avionics, as early as Monday, the sources said.
If it is cleared by Congress during the formal approval process, the package would be the first major military sale to Turkey that Congress has approved for years.
This doesn’t mean the bigger sale will receive a green light, with Turkey saying the US had ‘endless’ demands relating to the sale of F-16s and that Washington's behavior wasn't fair
A Department of State spokesperson declined comment. The department does not comment on proposed defense transfers or sales until they have been formally notified to Congress.
"The United States and Türkiye have deep defense and security ties, and Türkiye's continued NATO interoperability remains a critical priority," the spokesperson said, adding that the administration supports Turkey's efforts to modernize its fleet.
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees, who have cleared the modernization package during the informal review, declined comment.
The sources, one U.S. official and another familiar with the matter, could not give a precise value for the deal, beyond saying that it would be in the millions of dollars. It follows Turkey approving Finland's accession to the NATO military alliance and signs of easing tensions between Turkey and neighbor Greece ahead of Turkish elections due on May 15.
The package is separate from the proposed $20 billion sale of new Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits that Turkey requested in October 2021.
The smaller package was approved after the administration pushed the lawmakers to approve it to send a "positive signal" to Ankara, one of the sources said.
The approval does not mean the bigger sale will receive a green light from Congress as U.S. lawmakers are seeking assurances from Turkey on issues that go beyond the Nordic NATO expansion, sources added.
The issues include easing tensions with Greece for good, refraining from an invasion in northern Syria and enforcing sanctions against Russia, the sources said.
Such conditions are likely to anger Turkey, which has said the United States had "endless" demands relating to the sale of F-16s and that Washington's behavior wasn't fair.