USA is set to deliver the first of 18 new F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters to the Pakistani air force in a sign of deepening relations between the United States and Pakistan.
Three F-16s are scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on June 26, with 15 more to be delivered later this year and next, Air Force Maj. Todd Robbins, the Pakistan country director in the office of the undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said in an interview with American Forces Press Service.
“This is the most visible part of a strong and growing relationship between the two air forces that will benefit us both near-term and long-term,” Robbins said.
PAF’s fleet, three most modern F-16 aircraft would be inducted at the newly upgraded base under the Southern Air Command of the country on Sunday.Delivery of Block-52 type of F-16 aircraft, especially designed to ably meet with the country’s present and future needs is a part of goodwill gesture by the United States.Pakistan is the second country after Israel to get these state of the art aircraft from the US.
The Base, prior to this was being used as Forward Operating Base (FOB) by the PAF but very recently it has been upgraded to home F-16 Block 52 aircraft by installing state of the art gadgetry, equipment and radar system.
The aircraft including two D class and one C class would directly fly from the USA (Tuscon) and after making almost 8 hours flight would land at the Shahbaz base on Saturday.
“The induction of the F 16 Block 52 into PAF’s arsenal would go a long way in enhancing the potency of the PAF and would offset the technological superiority of the adversary in the domain of air power,” a spokesman of PAF told mediapersons while briefing about the induction of the aircraft.
The effects of inclusion of this aircraft and the associated weapons in PAF’s inventory would be further boosted by the addition of the Mid Life Update (MLU) modified F16s in early 2012.
PAF’s F16 fleet along with the locally developed JF 17 and the recently acquired Airborne Early Warning fleet would pose a formidable challenge to the enemy’s offensive designs.
He said that the aircraft can simultaneously carry a variety of arms and ammunition with the capability to engage the adversary in different types of attack and combat environment.
About the technical training for the repair and upgradation of F-16, he said a total of 113 PAF personnel including 32 Officers and 81 technicians have already completed their training at USA and are waiting to manage and operate these aircraft in Pakistan.
In addition to that, he said 8 pilots of PAF have been imparted operational training of the aircraft in USA and they will transfer the skill to other pilots in the country by performing as master trainers.
Meanwhile, he said that a Technical Support Team of the US comprising, technicians, engineers and experts from Lockheed Martin (the manufacturer of the aircraft), besides other officials of the US Air Force.
For the existing fleet of 40 F-16 aircraft MLU programme would also start in the current year.