October 16, 2001 (by Lieven Dewitte) - India could also gain from the cancelling of sanctions with the accelerated development of its light combat aircraft.
Political moves are afoot in Washington DC to offer Pakistan the 28 Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters originally ordered by the country in 1989, but not delivered because of the U-SA's only recently revoked arms embargo. India is also set to benefit with accelerated development of its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
The decision by the Bush Administration to lift the embargo against Pakistan
and India to build support for the action against Afghanistan means that the F-16s 'are definitely on the table," says a US State Department official.
While the door is open to commercial arms sales to Pakistan, the State Department adds that any military financial aid still requires Congressional legislation as a result of the 1999 military coup.
In 1998 the USA partially refunded Pakistan the $658 million it had paid by the time the deal collapsed and as a result a new deal would have to be structured.
Pakistan ordered 71 F-16A/B block 15
OCUs to supplement the 40 delivered in 1983-4, but only 28 were completed and since 1993-4 these have been in desert storage. Proposed deals to sell or lease the aircraft to other countries have come to nothing.
After years in storage, the Pratt & Whitney F100-220-powered aircraft need refurbishment before delivery. A Pakistan military official claims no request has been made for the aircraft and that the air force's more immediate focus is on securing spares for the 32 remaining F-16s in service.
At the same time India's Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is considering acceleration of the LCA development programme following the lifting of sanctions.
Development has been severely hampered by the sanctions. General Electric, which supplied F40442J3 engines for the development programme, was restricted from providing technical data or supporting flight tests and so joint work in other areas, including flight controls, ended.
Although the ADA working with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) successfully got the hugely delayed LCA to test flight without external help, the pace of testing remains slow. A little under 7h has been amassed on around 13 test sorties.
applied to the US State Department on 3 October for a "reengagement" of its revoked F404F2J3 export licence and says it "expects to get word back on where to go from there in a month or so".
Meanwhile, the US Congress has been notified of the possible sale of F-16s to Oman
, which has opened its bases to the coalition forces. Oman announced an intention to acquire F-16s in March; the notification covers 12 Block 50s.