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Former top NATO commander supports US F-16 sale to Türkiye

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Aretired general who served as NATO’s top commander, Philip Breedlove said U.S. approval for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye would be in the interest of Americans, as it would make the NATO alliance stronger, citing the country’s contributions to the organization.

“As a former supreme allied commander of NATO, I would support Türkiye having the very best F-16s they could have, because it makes them a better team member for NATO,” Breedlove told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Breedlove, who was NATO’s top commander in Europe between 2013 and 2016, underlined that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been making significant contributions to NATO operations in Europe.

He stressed that it is important for the U.S. to authorize the sale of new F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits.

“Every nation in NATO has duties. Big nations with big militaries, like Türkiye, have responsibilities to the rest of the alliance. Türkiye needs to be able to continue to upgrade its capabilities and remain completely compatible with the rest of NATO,” he said.

The general cited Türkiye’s participation in NATO’s air policing missions in the Baltics and Eastern Europe as one of the many examples of close cooperation between the allies.

“When Türkiye goes to these locations, to complete its mission, it needs to have the best kit that it can, the kit that is completely compatible with the rest of the alliance, so it’s important that we continue to help this great ally in its capabilities,” he said.

Türkiye, which has the second-largest armed forces in NATO, is seeking to modernize its long-serving fighter jet fleet by purchasing 40 F-16 Block 70 Viper aircraft and nearly 80 modernization kits.

However, the potential sale has not yet received a green light from the U.S. Congress, as several politicians maintain their opposition to the deal, citing concerns about Türkiye’s foreign policy.

‘We need to cultivate, not diminish relationship’

Breedlove said he does not share the view of those who argue that the strategic interests of the U.S. and Türkiye do not align anymore, stressing that the country remains a key partner with its “geostrategic position” and contributions to NATO.

“Some in America indicate we have different interests. I don’t believe in the long run that’s true,” he said.

“Türkiye is a great and important ally. We need to cultivate our relationship with Türkiye, not diminish our relationship. And part of that cultivation is helping Türkiye to come alongside NATO, as it upgrades its capabilities, specifically air capabilities.”

Breedlove pointed out that Türkiye’s purchase of F-16 fighter jets would further enhance cooperation among defense industries, and also have a positive impact on bilateral ties.

“When you buy a major weapon system like an aircraft with another country, you establish a 40-year marriage, and this keeps our countries close in the way we do business, in the way we work together,” he said.

“So, I think it’s always good for great allies to have these long-term relationships.”

Türkiye purchased its first F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. in 1987 and has been a critical partner in the F-16 production program for decades.

It currently has around 245 F-16s in various configurations and aims to modernize its fleet with new jets and modernization kits to upgrade the existing ones.

Amid prolonged uncertainty about when and whether the U.S. Congress will approve the sale, Defense Minister Yaşar Güler announced last month that Ankara was now holding talks with the U.K. on the potential purchase of 40 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets.

Breedlove, who is also a former F-16 pilot with 3,500 flying hours, said Eurofighters are also compatible with NATO standards but pointed out that the U.S.-made F-16s offer some significant advantages for Türkiye.

“What Türkiye needs is aircraft that are completely interdependent and interoperable with NATO equipment, from communications, sharing of data, etc. These are the things we need,” he said.

“There are other countries building aircraft that meet those requirements, and if Türkiye believes that’s the way they need to go, Türkiye is a sovereign nation, and can make its own sovereign decisions.”

Source: Daily Sabah

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