October 11, 2003 (by habu2) - Although many Indian and Pakistani newspapers claim that the Pentagon has agreed to refurbish Pakistan's depleted fleet of F-16s and allow Belgium to sell two squadrons of the aircraft to Pakistan, , the head of the Pentagon's foreign military sales (FMS) program recently said that there are still no plans in that direction.
Last month, the U.S.-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group met in Washington, D.C., to discuss defense cooperation and future foreign military sales. "I would imagine the most significant issue for them is the F-16s," Lt. Gen. Tome Walters, the head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA
), said in an interview last week.
DSCA manages the Pentagon's FMS
programs and has been extensively involved in the resumption of defense sales to Pakistan
. While DSCA is discussing the possibility of supporting mid-life upgrades for Pakistan's existing F-16 fleet and is also considering the sale of used F-16s to replace attrition aircraft, there are still no plans to sell Pakistan new F-16s, according to Walters.
Pakistan currently operates F-16s that it bought from the United States in the 1980s, but sanctions imposed in the early 1990s blocked a pending acquisition of an additional 28 F-16s and prevented the Pakistani air force from importing spare parts for its remaining fleet of F-16s. When sanctions were lifted in 2001, Pakistan renewed its request for additional F- 16s, but that request was quickly rebuffed.
Walters also said that the U.S. had not received any official requests to approve the transfer of F-16s to Pakistan from a third country, although Pakistani officials have said publicly that they have spoken with the Dutch and Belgian governments about buying used F-16s from them. Neither Belgium
, the Netherlands
, nor Pakistan have asked about third party transfers of F-16s, Walters said. "We'll have to wait for a question before we can provide an answer."
Responding to criticism from Pakistani officials about the alleged slow pace of foreign military sales, Walters argued that the United States and DSCA have "worked hard to provide Pakistan with what it asked for." In one case, the possible sale of aerostat radar, the United States approved the sale only to have Pakistan change its mind. "From my perspective, we've leaned far forward to be reliable friends and partners," he said.
Citing over 200 licenses granted and over 10 foreign military sales over the last year, Walters said that the level of cooperation is growing at a steady pace. Overall, it's a matter of whether "the glass half full or is the glass half empty," he said, and from the U.S. perspective, the rate of sales is nothing short of "remarkable."