Wednesday, January 25, 2023
HomeDefenceBiden administration approves upgrade of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter aircraft in $450-million deal

Biden administration approves upgrade of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter aircraft in $450-million deal

Pentagon said the proposed sale “greatly improves Pakistan’s ability to support counterterrorism operations through its robust air-to-ground capability”.

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New Delhi: The Biden administration in the US has approved the potential sale of sustainment and related equipment for the upgrade of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter aircraft fleet, in a deal valued at up to $450 million, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The deal, however, will not include “any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions” for the aircraft which is Pakistan’s Air Force’s main fighter, even though they have the JF-17s in larger numbers.

In 2019, Pakistan had used the same aircraft to target India after the Balakot strike and used American supplied AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile), to shoot down then Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG 21 Bison.

These missiles had higher capability than that of the medium range R-77 used by the Su-30 MKI and the MICA used by the Mirages of the Indian Air Force at that time.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying the US Congress of the possible sale Wednesday after Pakistan requested to consolidate prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support keep up the Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 fleet.

Included in the upgrade are US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics services for follow-on support of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. It also includes modifications and support of aircraft and engine hardware and software as well as repair and return of the jets and engine spares, classified and unclassified software and software support among others.

The Pentagon statement added that this proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by allowing Pakistan to “retain interoperability with US and partner forces” in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.

It also said that the proposed sale will continue the sustainment of the country’s F-16 fleet, which “greatly improves Pakistan’s ability to support counterterrorism operations through its robust air-to-ground capability”.

History of Pakistan’s F-16s journey 

The upgrade is part of US military’s assistance to Pakistan under a policy in which it sold and upgraded F-16s since the 1980s despite the country’s open support to the Taliban and the Haqqani network and use of terrorism as a state policy against India.

It was in 1981 when the US agreed to sell the F-16 jets to Pakistan in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The idea was to use these aircraft to engage the Soviet and Afghan jets that periodically crossed the border to bomb mujahideen training camps. Foreign policy and national security website War on the Rocks reported that between 1986 and 1990, Pakistani F-16s shot down at least 10 Afghan and Soviet jets, helicopters, and transport planes.

However, in the 1990s, the program fell flat due to American concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme forcing Washington to hold back the delivery of 28 F-16s for which Pakistan had paid around $658 million.

Things took a turn again after 9/11 as Pakistan joined the American war on terror. The US again sold 18 advanced Block 52 F-16s for approximately $1.4 billion, as well as targeting pods and electronic warfare pods.

Not only that, the US also sold mid-life upgrade kits for 53 of Pakistan’s older model F-16s, which made them as capable as the Block 52 version of the aircraft. Turkey, which also flies the F-16 jet, did the upgrades of Pakistan’s fighter aircraft, War on the Rocks reported.

Also read: 23 years ago, India won the Kargil conflict. Experts say those conditions no longer apply


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