Pakistan is negotiating with the United States to buy 14 additional
F-16 fighter planes, Pakistan defence officials said on Sunday,
following talks aimed at reversing tempestuous ties between the allies.
The United States and Pakistan have agreed to fast-track pending
Pakistani requests for military equipment as the two step up security
cooperation, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday during a
high-profile visit to Washington.
“Talks are underway and we’re hoping to get them at a low price,” the official, who requested not to be identified, said.
Pakistan is an important US ally in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The United States has provided F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad and
Pakistan’s navy chief was in Washington this month to discuss the
handover in August of a refurbished US frigate.
Washington said this month it would deliver 1,000 laser-guided bomb
kits to Pakistan within weeks and is considering more weapons sales to
help the Pakistani air force crack down on insurgents in the
Afghanistan border region.
In early 2010, the United States approved the delivery of 12 Lockheed
Martin Corp’s F-16C and 6 F-16D planes, scheduled to begin from June
This delivery to Pakistan will bring its inventory of the planes to 54.
If a new deal is approved, Pakistan’s arsenal of F-16s, including
refurbished fighters, will amount to 79, defence officials said.
Pakistan has been operating F-16s since 1982.
Another official said Pakistan’s interest in new F-16s was a bid to match India’s firepower.
“Look at the rival (India). How many fighter jets they are purchasing
and if you’re getting them at a low price then why not?” he said.
India plans to buy 126 air and ground attack fighters, which will
elevate its air force to super-power status, with deployments planned
near the borders with Pakistan and China, officials say.
One bone of contention between Washington and Islamabad has been a
delay in about $2 billion in military aid owed by the United States to
Pakistan under a programme called the Coalition Support Fund.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said a “substantial”
amount of the money would be paid by the end of April, with Washington
promising the remainder by the end of June.