December 15, 2005 (by G. A. Volb) - Two upgraded F-16 Fighting Falcons landed in Pakistan on Tuesday. According to Pakistan, the US has provided these aircraft to the PAF for free as a "goodwill gesture".
A row of PAF F-16s with F-16A block 15 #84718 in front, ready for the next mission, seen at Sargodha AB. [PAF photo]
In the early 1980s, the Pakistan
air force received its first delivery of F-16 aircraft from the United States - the maintenance support for which has been as unpredictable as world politics ever since.
It wasn't until late 2003 that the U.S. agreed to provide an assessment of Pakistan's existing F-16 fleet and suggest upgrades, including spares and other support requirements.
Today, it's an important relationship given the global war on terror and Pakistan's crucial role geographically, if not militarily, in support of U.S. national security interests.
According to Mr. Carlos Romero, 508th Fighter Sustainment Group F-16 logistics management specialist at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the relationship has grown to the point where Congress approved the delivery of two more F-16s to Pakistan - gratis; two complete fighters with the latest avionics and mechanical upgrades authorized for the country. The aircraft departed Hill's runway 1 a.m., Dec. 8 en route to Pakistan with two American pilots on board.
"Essentially, we reconfigured the aircraft to meet the current baseline for Pakistan," said Mr. Thomas Hutchinson, F-16 maintenance planner for the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group located at Hill AFB
, "which is well above that of the early 90s aircraft currently sitting on their ramps."
Mr. Hutchinson said the configuration included an anti-skid system, new HAV-quick radio upgrade and several days of repainting - Pakistani national colors and emblems - on the aircraft.
"If I had to compare them to their current fleet, I'd have to say they're going to be extremely happy to have these two jets," said Mr. Hutchinson. Both aircraft are the product of a defense program known as EDA or Excess Defense Articles.
"The aircraft were deemed as excess defense articles and removed from two separate units in Florida and California," said Mr. Romero. "However, they were still flown by United States Air Force pilots through a controlled route until they reached Pakistan."
Excess Defense Articles are those the Department of Defense determines are no longer needed by the U.S. Armed Forces. Such defense articles, according to Mr. Romero, may be made available for sale under the Foreign Military Sales Program or as a grant to eligible foreign countries under the provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act. In this particular case, the aircraft were a grant to Pakistan for supporting U.S. efforts in the war on terrorism.
Mr. Romero said the trip took four days, the planes not officially turned over until signed for and the national colors unveiled on Pakistani soil.
It's then that the two modified F-16s became Pakistani resources. It's something the Pakistani Foreign Liaison Officer for sustainment of their F-16 fleet here says thinks they'll be well received.
"I wouldn't want to say how many we have in our current inventory," said Pakistani Air Force Lt. Col. Mujahid Khan, "but we looked forward to the arrival of these two aircraft."