Plans to modernise Türkiye's aerial fleet "are in the works" and they need to go through "contracting processes," says Celeste Wallander, a senior defence official at Pentagon.

Approximately $6-billion deal would include sale of 40 newly built F-16V fighter jets and modernisation kits for 80 F-16 C/D models.
Approximately $6-billion deal would include sale of 40 newly built F-16V fighter jets and modernisation kits for 80 F-16 C/D models. (AA Archive)

The Biden administration has thrown its support behind the potential sale of US F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye, a day after Ankara lifted a veto of NATO membership for Finland and Sweden.

Celeste Wallander, Assistant Secretary for Defense for International Security Affairs at Pentagon, told media on Wednesday that strong Turkish defence capabilities would reinforce NATO's defences.

"The United States supports Türkiye's modernisation of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security," she said.

"These plans are in the works. And, they need to be worked through our contracting processes," she added.

Türkiye made a request in October to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernisation kits for its existing warplanes.

Washington had not previously openly expressed any opinion on the sale aside from saying all weapons sales would have to go through the necessary legal process.

READ MORE: US 'very positive' on Türkiye's F-16 bid — Turkish official

Key Republican senator backs F-16 decision

Key Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announced his support behind a decision by the US on upgrading Türkiye's F-16 fighter jet fleet.

"I support the Biden administration's decision to support the sale of new F-16s to our NATO ally, Türkiye," Graham, who represents South Carolina, wrote on Twitter.

"While we have differences with Türkiye, they are a NATO ally and it is in America's national security interests to beef up their capabilities in a troubled region," he wrote.

He added that upgrading Türkiye's "aviation capability will benefit Türkiye, the US, NATO, and regional security."

In March, the State Department wrote a letter to some members of the US Congress who had opposed the sale, saying "appropriate" US defence trade ties with Türkiye would serve US interests.

Wallander's comments come on the heels of an 11th-hour deal struck on Tuesday between Türkiye, Finland and Sweden after four hours of talks, averting an impasse at the gathering of 30 NATO leaders that aims to show resolve in the face of Russia's offensive on Ukraine.

The three nations signed a deal under which Ankara lifted its block on Finnish and Swedish membership, while the candidates pledged not to support the PKK and its affiliates YPG/PYD groups, or the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) led by US-based businessman Fetullah Gulen, who orchestrated the defeated 2016 coup attempt in Türkiye.

READ MORE: Biden reportedly presses Congress to approve F-16 sale to Türkiye

Source: TRTWorld and agencies