The United States will hand over the first batch of four upgraded F-16s to Pakistan this week, giving the latter’s Air Force the capability to conduct night operations and use precision-guided munition in its operations against militants in the country’s northwest.
The four Block 52 F-16s of the 18 are due to arrive Saturday in Pakistan. The remaining 14 multi-role combat jets will be delivered by the year-end.
The jets, which are more advanced than the F-16 A/B jets in the Pakistan Air Force’s fleet, will enhance its capabilities for the ongoing war against terror.
Ahead of the delivery of the Block 52 F-16s, eight Pakistani pilots were trained in the U.S. to make the transition smooth from F-16 A/B to F-16 Block C/D.
Pakistan is also negotiating with the U.S. to buy 14 more new F-16s even as its Air Force is conducting a mid-life upgrade of its fleet of the 30-year-old F-16s. Four of the 45 old F-16s are being upgraded and they will be ready in two months.
The sale of F-16s by the U.S. has been an issue of concern for India, which has pointed out that Islamabad has diverted military aid meant for counter-terror operations to bolster its military capabilities against India.
The delivery of the fighter jets came at a time when India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao left for Islamabad Wednesday to kick-start a round of meetings for reducing the distrust between the two countries.
She will meet with her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir Thursday to pave the way for next month’s meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries.