Pakistan Air Force needs to retire 190 planes from its current fleet by 2020, senior officials told Dawn while commenting on a report that the country was seeking another batch of 10 F-16s from the United States.
Jane’s Defence Weekly reported this week that Pakistan would seek to purchase these additional planes from the United States if the current deal for the sale of eight Fighting Falcons is successfully concluded.
In the last week, the US Senate rejected a move to shoot down the proposed sale. As result of that, its in final stages. On Saturday, the 30-day mandatory period, that allows Congress to block an arms sale to a foreign country, also passed. There are some technical details, which are still being worked out. The deal for these eight aircraft is almost final.
Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that Pakistan is now interested in 10 more F-16C/D Block 52 multi-role fighters equipped with precision strike capability. Pakistan needs this capability to reduce collateral damage in the war against terrorists who often take refuge among civilians.
A “decision in principle has been made to buy 10 more F-16s”, a senior Pakistani government official told Jane’s, while adding that “the exact timing to place an order is yet to be decided”.
“No, not yet,” said a senior defence official when asked if Pakistan indeed had decided to buy another batch of 10 F-16s from the United States. “But we do need to retire 190 planes by 2020. And we already looking for various options,” he added.
The official further said that the strong resistance it faced in the US Congress for buying a small batch of eight planes was ‘discouraging.’ “That’s why we are looking at other options too, such as buying them from Russia or France.”
The official noted that while French planes were “very expensive, the Russians are not and they are equally good”.
In September 2015, Russia offered to sell the Su-35 planes to Pakistan.
Pakistani officials say that India’s defence procurements also influence their search for a matching technology. India is already working on a fifth generation aircraft with Russia, which is to enter service by 2020, forcing Pakistan to do the same.
Pakistan is not looking to match the exact number of planes the Indians have but would like to maintain a fleet of 350 to 400 war ready aircraft.
Pakistan is also maintaining a large-scale defence collaboration with China, which is a great source of strength for the country.
The eight planes that Pakistan is purchasing include: two single-seat F-16Cs and six twin-seat F-16Ds, along with associated equipment – for about $699 million.
The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency says that the proposed sale would “improve Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats”.
Operational capability in all-weather, non-daylight environments, providing a self-defence/area-suppression capability, and conducting counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations are key highlights of the capabilities the plane comes with. The new induction will not only increase the number of aircraft available to the PAF to sustain operations, but also enable it to meet increasing monthly training requirements, and support transition training for pilots to the new Block 52.