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Pakistan receives three upgraded F-16 fighter jets

June 26, 2010 16:26 IST

Pakistan has received the first three upgraded F-16 fighter aircrafts with an official saying the aircraft could be used to deal with "all internal and external threats". An official spokesman claimed Pakistan would be the only country besides Israel to get the latest version of the F-16, reflecting the strategic relations between Islamabad and Washington. The three new jets were flown to a Pakistani airbase on Saturday afternoon and the 15 others will be delivered by the end of this year, officials said.

A Pakistan Air Force spokesman told a briefing at the Air Headquarters in Silamabad on Friday that there was no restriction on the use of the F-16s and they would be used to "deal with all internal and external threats". Five more jets will be delivered about 45 days later and the delivery of all 18 jets will be completed by the end of the year, the spokesman said. The new aircraft are equipped with "fourth and fifth generation avionics, sniper pods for night operations, modern threat warning systems, electronic warfare gadgets, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance systems and secure data links," he said. "These capabilities will provide PAF the means to counter the offensive designs of any air force," he said. The induction of the new F-16s into the PAF "would go a long way in enhancing" its potency and "would offset technological superiority of the adversary in the domain ofair power," he added.

The sale of the F-16s "renews new aircraft sales that existed between the US and Pakistan in the 1980s, but were halted in the 1990s", said a statement issued by the US embassy. "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," Major Todd Robbins, the Pakistan country director in the US office of the air force undersecretary for international affairs, told reporters ahead of the delivery of the jets. The 18 new F-16s to be provided to Pakistan are Block 52 versions of the jets and will give Pakistan new capabilities, including "day-night, all-weather and precision-attack capabilities", said Robbins. "They've not had (these capabilities) before, so this is a major milestone in the US providing this capability, which older models (of F-16s) don't have. 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," he said.

Pakistan is paying US $ 1.4 billion for the 18 jets and an additional US $ 1.3 billion for a programme to upgrade its existing F-16 fleet that will get underway in 2012, Robbins said. The US is training Pakistani pilots to fly the new jets and the first eight recently completed their training. The US Air Force is also training the Pakistanis in night-attack training and recently completed training for four instructors and five other pilots.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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