USA/Pakistan — Delivery of New F-16s to Pakistan Shows Deepening Relations

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2010 — The Air Force is set to deliv­er the first of 18 new F-16 Fight­ing Fal­con jet fight­ers to the Pak­istani air force in a sign of deep­en­ing rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan.

F-16 C/D Block 52 Fighting Falcon jet fighters
The Air Force is set to deliv­er the first of 18 new F-16 C/D Block 52 Fight­ing Fal­con jet fight­ers to the Pak­istan air force. The air­craft will give Pakistan’s mil­i­tary an unprece­dent­ed advan­tage against vio­lent extrem­ists who threat­en Pak­istan and the region, offi­cials said, by enabling pre­ci­sion tar­get­ing in all weath­er con­di­tions, day and night.
U.S. Air Force pho­to
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Three F-16s are sched­uled to arrive in Pak­istan on June 26, with 15 more to be deliv­ered lat­er this year and next, Air Force Maj. Todd Rob­bins, the Pak­istan coun­try direc­tor in the office of the under­sec­re­tary of the Air Force for inter­na­tion­al affairs, said in an inter­view with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

“This is the most vis­i­ble part of a strong and grow­ing rela­tion­ship between the two air forces that will ben­e­fit us both near-term and long-term,” Rob­bins said.

This sale of F-16s to Pak­istan renews new air­craft sales that exist­ed between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan in the 1980s, but were halt­ed in the 1990s. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and oth­er U.S. mil­i­tary and civil­ian lead­ers have spo­ken out about “not repeat­ing the mis­takes” of the U.S. halt in rela­tions with Pak­istan in the late 1980s and ear­ly 1990s. In March, the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan held their first min­is­te­r­i­al-lev­el strate­gic dia­logue here, co-chaired by Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Pak­istan For­eign Min­is­ter Makhdoom Shah Mah­mood Qureshi. High-lev­el offi­cials from both gov­ern­ments par­tic­i­pat­ed in the dia­logue, includ­ing Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gates said then that the talks includ­ed dis­cus­sion of “how we can help Pak­istan in deal­ing with the secu­ri­ty chal­lenges that face them, but also face us and NATO as well.”

The two coun­tries held fol­low-up meet­ings in Pak­istan in ear­ly June that focused on improv­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions and secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion, offi­cials said.

Rela­tions with Pak­istan improved after Sept. 11, 2001, Rob­bins said, “and this is just one very tan­gi­ble exam­ple of the cur­rent­ly strong and grow­ing rela­tion­ship between the U.S. Air Force and the Pak­istan air force and, in the larg­er con­text, between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan.”

The F-16 is a mul­ti­role jet fight­er sold to 24 coun­tries around the world, accord­ing to its man­u­fac­tur­er, Lock­heed Mar­tin. The 18 being sold to Pak­istan are the Block 52 ver­sions of the air­craft, Rob­bins said, which will give Pak­istan new capa­bil­i­ties, includ­ing day-night, all-weath­er and pre­ci­sion-attack capa­bil­i­ties.

“They’ve not had [these capa­bil­i­ties] before, so this is a major mile­stone in the U.S. pro­vid­ing this capa­bil­i­ty, which old­er mod­els [of F-16s] don’t have,” he said. “This will enable them to strike ter­ror­ists with­in their bor­ders while help­ing them to avoid col­lat­er­al dam­age. It’s an increase in capa­bil­i­ties that are ben­e­fi­cial to us all.”

Pak­istan is pay­ing $1.4 bil­lion for the 18 new air­craft, in addi­tion to $1.3 bil­lion in upgrades to its exist­ing F-16 fleet, which are to begin being deliv­ered in 2012, Rob­bins said.

The Air Force also is train­ing Pak­istan air force pilots. The first eight recent­ly com­plet­ed train­ing with the Ari­zona Nation­al Guard in Tuc­son, with addi­tion­al train­ing done by Lock­heed Mar­tin, Rob­bins said. The Air Force also is train­ing Pak­ista­nis in night-attack train­ing and recent­ly com­plet­ed train­ing for four instruc­tors and five flight leads, he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)