‘US may sell Pakistan F-16s’
KARACHI: The United States has indicated that it may sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, but Islamabad is also considering other options to purchase high technology aircraft, Pakistan Chief of Air Force Kaleem Saadat said on Tuesday.
Pakistan was unable to buy high technology aircrafts for the last two decades because of sanctions, the air force chief told reporters at the first day of the Third International Defence Exhibition IDEAS 2004 that formally opened in Karachi under tight security. “The Western countries denied us access to their markets and their products,” Saadat said, “but the attitude has changed after Pakistan joined the US-led war on terror.”
“There is a possibility that we will get more F-16s,” he said. “This is not a rumour, it is a statement by the American government. The work (on such a sale) has stopped because of the (US) elections.”
Saadat said the US was giving billions of dollars in economic aid and writing off debts, “but Pakistani public opinion is still against Americans because ... they think the Americans want to keep them weak”. Pakistan bought 40 F-16s in the early 1980s when the country was serving as a base for the US-backed resistance against the former Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. But another order for the purchase of 70 F-16s in the late 1980s failed to materialise when the United States imposed sanctions on the country for its clandestine nuclear programme.
Pakistan paid for the planes in advance and was only been able to get its money back after a decade.
Saadat said the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had suffered because of the sanctions. The disparity between Pakistani and Indian air forces had widened as a result of Pakistan’s inability to buy frontline fighter aircrafts, he said adding, “You do not need mathematics to realise this”. Saadat said Pakistan was concerned by the bilateral defence cooperation between Israel and India. Besides F-16s, Pakistan is looking to equip its air force with Swedish Grippen and Chinese F-10s, Saadat said.
Saadat explained that the JF-17 Thunder fighter aircrafts, co-produced by Pakistan and China, were going to be inducted into the air force in 2006. “The JF-17 Thunder will replace Mirage 3 and 5, A-5 and F-7 aircrafts,” he said. He said the medium-technology aircraft matched the Mirage in performance, but its avionics and weapons were superior.
Saadat said the Super Mashak plane made by the PAF had proved itself internationally and Pakistan was receiving large orders for the plane. He said that one super Mashak plane would be exported to Malaysia this year and Saudi Arabia had signed an agreement to buy 20 Super Mushak planes. Talks were underway to sell the planes to Sri Lanka, South Africa and Oman, said Saadat. agencies