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US to sell 18 new F-16 jets to Pakistan

June 30, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The US State Department decided to sell Pakistan 18 new F-16s with an option for 18 more. The US also offers to acquire and upgrade 26 used F-16A/B aircraft from U.S. inventories and to upgrade Pakistan's current fleet of 34 F-16s.

The deal was revealed in a US government's notice sent to the Congress, which technically has 30 days to veto the deal. But Congress has never exercised that power on a major arms sale.

The $5 billion deal also includes various munitions for the planes and logistic support like:
  • 200 AIM-9M-8/9s Sidewinders
  • 500 AIM-120C5s AMRAAM BVR missiles
  • 800 general purpose 2,000 and 500-pound bombs
  • 500 JDAM bomb guidance systems
  • Link 16
  • Sniper targetting pod
  • CFTs
  • ...

See the article "Details of the potential sale of F-16s, armament, upgrades, equipment and services to Pakistan" for more details.

Pakistan intends to buy 36 new F-16 fighter jets from the US and not 77 as originally planned. Pakistan delayed its purchase last year as the country focused on recovering from a devastating earthquake.

If Pakistan takes all 36 new Block 50/52 C/Ds F-16s being offered, the deal would extend F-16 production in Fort Worth until June 2011.

The precise terms of the F-16 sale to Pakistan haven't been negotiated between Lockheed and Islamabad. The company currently is producing F-16s for Poland and Chile and has a backlog of 144 planes on order.

Lockheed's goal is to keep the line open until at least 2012, when the company is to begin major production of its new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, said spokesman Joseph Stout.

"The big order we're pursuing is in India, where they have a stated requirement for 126 aircraft," Stout said.

US State Department spokesperson Julie Reside described the sale as "part of an effort to broaden our strategic partnership with Pakistan and advance our national security and foreign policy interests in South Asia".

"Pakistan is a long-term partner and major non-NATO ally," she noted.

Reside stressed that the sale is nothing to do with the nuclear partnership that the US is building with India.

She also dismissed any suggestion that the sale could contribute to an arms race in South Asia and said a dialogue between India and Pakistan has already helped reduce tensions and provided greater stability in their region.

In December 2005, the US provided two upgraded F-16s to Pakistan for free as a "goodwill gesture".