Turkey Wants New F-16 Fighters As a 'Bribe' for Sweden to Join NATO

December 20, 2023 Topic: military Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: TurkeyF-16F-16 FighterLockheed MartinNATOSweden

Turkey Wants New F-16 Fighters As a 'Bribe' for Sweden to Join NATO

Turkey's endorsement of Sweden's NATO membership depends on U.S. congressional approval to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. Some in Washington are quite upset over this. 


Turkey Wants the F-16 as a Condition for Sweden's NATO Membership - The White House has repeatedly rejected any assertion of a "quid pro quo" between the sale of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and NATO enlargement.

F-16 For NATO Deal? 

Still, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said his country's endorsement for Sweden's NATO membership depends on U.S. congressional approval to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.


"Positive developments from the United States regarding the F-16 issue and Canada keeping its promises will accelerate our parliament's positive view on [Sweden's membership]," Erdoğan said in comments reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency on Monday, according to The Associated Press. "All of these are linked."

The Turkish leader made the comments while returning from a visit to Budapest. Hungary and Turkey are the only two NATO members that have not formally approved Sweden's bid to join the international military alliance.

Erdoğan had submitted a protocol on Sweden's admission to parliament in October, but the ratification process stalled.

Ankara has sought to purchase forty of the fourth-generation F-16 fighter jets, along with modernization kits for its existing fleet of Fighting Falcons. Turkey has already delayed ratification of Sweden's membership for more than a year. The Turkish government has accused the Nordic nation of not taking Turkey's security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against Kurdish militants.

Sweden: No Longer Neutral

Historically neutral Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, sought to join NATO following Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Washington signed a defense deal with Stockholm, which allows American troops to have access to bases on Swedish territory.

"The Defense cooperation agreement will be a cornerstone also in our bilateral defense cooperation and a sign of our mutual will to further develop this endeavor," Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson said in remarks at the signing.

Turkey and the F-16

Ankara has sought to acquire the F-16 as it was formally expelled from the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II program after it went forward with an acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 "Triumf" air defense system. The United States and NATO have argued that the two systems are not compatible and that it would put the F-35 at risk.

Turkey had been a part of the supply chain for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, and reportedly paid $1.25 billion to participate in the effort. Producing parts for the fifth-generation aircraft was expected to have generated $9 billion in revenue for Ankara, while six F-35 aircraft produced for Turkey were not delivered.

As previously reported, Turkey's S-400s have not been activated to date.

FAQ and Background on the F-16 Fighting Falcon

There are approximately 3,000 operational F-16s in service today in 25 countries, a testament to what is easily the world's most successful, combat-proven multi-role jet fighter ever produced. As of 2015, it was the world's most numerous fixed-wing aircraft in military service

The fast and agile F-16 Fighting Falcon isn't just one of the top fighters. It is also among the most cost-effective.

While it lacks the range and payload of the larger twin-engine F-15 Eagle, it also costs less than half – which is why the fourth-generation F-16 has been in use since the 1970s and will likely keep flying for many more years.

Since entering service in 1979, this "warbird" has been battle-tested, engaging in more than 400,000 combat sorties and has a combined 19 million flight hours. It has been adapted to complete several missions, including air-to-air fighting, ground attack, and electronic warfare. As a combat fighter, the F-16 has proven to be highly maneuverable while its combat radius exceeds that of its potential threats.

The latest version of the Fighting Falcon is powered by a single engine, either the General Electric F110-GE-129 or Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-229, and while it is a speedy fighter, it can pack a serious punch.


The F-16 has nine hardpoints for weapons payloads – including one at each wingtip, three under each wing, and one centerline under the fuselage.

Defense One reported in September that Lockheed Martin, which now produces the aircraft after it acquired General Dynamics aviation business in the 1990s, announced that it was gearing up to build the Fighting Falcon at full speed. The aerospace firm expected to deliver between six and eight new F-16s this year to various customers – but Turkey wasn't one of those operators.

Even if a deal is approved, there is a backlog, and it could take several years until Ankara actually receives any of the fourth-generation fighters.

Author Experience and Expertise

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.