July 10, 2007 (by Asif Shamim) - The United States on Tuesday started delivery of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan when two were flown from the US & were handed over to the Pakistani Air Force in a ceremony at PAF Mushaf.
In attendeance at the official ceremony were Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed, US Ambassador Anne W. Peterson, and large number of senior officers of the PAF
The F-16s were flown by Commander Central Air Command Lt. Gen. Gary L. North along with another colleague and reached Mushaf after a lengthy flight, which included an 8 hours transit across the Atlantic.
The handing over formally starts the delivery of the fleet of a dozen aircraft to Pakistan
. These aircraft were manufactured in 1990s as part of the Peace Gate III/IV programs, which were withheld after the enforcement of the Pressler amendment. The aircraft were consequently stored at AMARC
(Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center) at Davis-Monthan AFB
, Arizona, later these F-16s were utilised by the USAF and USN.
Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed said rest of the fleet comprising of 10 aircraft would be given to Pakistan in batches continuing into the middle of next year. "These are exceptionally used aircraft and are being given to us at very nominal prices," he said.
He further went on to say this delivery of aircraft to Pakistan was only possible after hectic sessions of negotiations with the USAF. He thanked the chief of US Airforce who graciously made available 12 aircraft for delivery to Pakistan.
In addition to these aircraft, he said efforts were in hand to get lot of 16 aircraft, which are in use by the US Navy
, and these are part of those 28 aircraft for which Pakistan had paid for.
In the meantime, he said, offers have been made by the US Administration to get similar number of aircraft from the US Air National Guard. But, he said these had been extensively used and would not be feasible to induct into the PAF fleet.
The 28 aircraft requested were especially manufactured for PAF in line with its requirements as part of the Peace Gate program.
Air Marshal Tanvir back in 1990s was the Director Operations with the PAF and had been engaged in the manufacture of 28 aircraft and now during his term as PAF Chief the deal is being matured after lapse of over 15 years.
"After lapse of over 15 years these aircraft are coming home," he said.
Answering a question, he said induction of F-16s to the PAF fleet would considerably enhance the defence capability of the country’s air defenders.
He said that the delivery of new F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, which are presently being manufactured, would start in next three years.
On the renovation and overhaul of the existing fleet of F-16 aircraft, the PAF chief said under the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU
) Program six aircraft of PAF would be overhauled in the US while PAF’s technicians would also be given training. "We will make every effort to acquire technical know how ultimately enabling us to undertake overhauls and upgrades of the aircraft indigenously," he said.
Speaking at the formal handing over ceremony, the US Ambassador Ms. Anne W. Peterson said that it was pleasure for her that she was witnessing the handing over ceremony. "This will go a long way in furthering bilateral ties and relations between both countries are on smooth sail."
"The US is proud to be partner of Pakistan and it will continue to assist Pakistan in furthering its defence capabilities," she said.
She said supply of F-16 Pakistan is being undertaken in three phased program inclusive of delivery of 28 used aircraft, handing over of new aircraft and upgrade of existing fleet.