According to the Defence Aviation Post, The Biden administration’s approval of a USD 450 million military sale package for the upkeep of the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) ageing F-16 fleet has sparked questions about why the United States is selling weapons to nations that oppose American interests, support terrorism, or whose leaders harbour aspirations to murder their own citizens.
It would seem basic sense not to sell weapons to such nations, but the Biden administration wants to do precisely that, Michael Rubin, writing in the Washington Examiner.
Given Islamabad’s contradictory actions in the war on terror, the Trump administration withheld military assistance to Pakistan in 2018. Throughout the Taliban movement’s advance through Afghanistan, Pakistan gave Al Qaeda a lifeline and supported the insurgency.
After Afghanistan’s fall, Pakistan once more pushed for its foreign policy’s most anti-liberal tenets. It continues to be a satrapy of China and regularly votes against US interests at the UN.
In light of this, Rubin found the Biden administration’s declaration last week that it wanted to upgrade Pakistan’s F-16 fleet for close to $500 million USD.
This ignores geopolitical reality while also rewarding Pakistan for years of planning to assassinate American service members in Afghanistan. F-16s won’t be used by Pakistan to combat terrorism. After example, the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence organisation has clients who are extremists in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan doesn’t require F-16s either to fight China. The two nations are strategic partners; Washington Examiner, Pakistan even authorised China to construct a covert naval station at Gwadar to provide the People’s Liberation Army Navy with access to the Indian Ocean.
Sales to competitors have more serious repercussions. Instead of defending NATO against its Russian financial allies, Turkey is much more likely to use its F-16s to threaten Greece or Armenia as it turns.
The United States’ F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was no longer available to Turkey as a result of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pivot toward Russia. Since then, Turkey has intensified its hostility toward the United States.
Similarly, Pakistan solely wants F-16s so that it can use them as a threat against India. Given the stance of Turkey and Pakistan, granting Ankara or Islamabad access would entail indirectly providing Moscow and Beijing with the most advanced military technology available, Rubin.
F-16 Fighting Falcon Multi-role Aircraft in Pakistani Service
Currently the Pakistan Air Force operates a total number of approximately 74 to 84 F-16 jets. These jets were introduced in the PAF in 1983.
Pakistan was an early customer of the F-16, seeking to counter a heavy Soviet presence in Afghanistan, in addition to countering its traditional rival, India. An initial order for 40 aircraft was delivered in two installments, and led to a further order for 71 more F-16A/B Block 15 OCU aircraft. Due to political developments relating to Pakistan’s nuclear program, these aircraft were embargoed before delivery. 28 remained in storage while other buyers were sought (and a 10-year lease to the Royal New Zealand Air Force fell through) due to a change in government, but ultimately it was decided that the aircraft would be put into service with the US Air Force and Navy as aggressor aircraft. The remaining aircrafts were not completed.
The Pakistani Foreign Military Sales program is known as PEACE GATE.
In November 2006, the Pakistan Air Force signed a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) for 18 new-built F-16C/D Block 52s, 28 F-16A/B Block 15s and 60 Mid-Life-Update M3 Tape modules/kits as part of a $5.1billion deal including fighter aircraft, their related infrastructure, training and ammunition. Deliveries of the F-16A/Bs were expected to begin in 2007, while the initial F-16C/Ds would likely be received sometime in late 2008 or early 2009. The procurement of new-built aircraft and the refurbishment and upgrade of 60 used and serving aircraft was expected to be complete by 2010–2012, as per the Pakistan Air Force Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed.
In April 2006, Janes Defence Weekly reported that the PAF may procure an additional 18 Block 52 aircraft. In July 2007, Commander of Central Command Air Forces, Lieutenant General Gary L. North (U.S. Air Force), and another U.S. aviator flew a pair of F-16s to Pakistan for Pakistan Air Force.
In December 2009 the first F-16/D block 52 rolled out for PAF. The first batch arrived in Pakistan in May 2010, and 17 F-16C/Ds had been delivered to the PAF by the end of December 2010. One F-16D used for testing joined the PAF in 2012 along with two examples upgraded to MLU standards in the USA.
In April 2014, the PAF received a batch of five second-hand F-16s bought from Jordan, from an order for 13 aircraft.
In 2016, the US approved the sale of eight F-16 Block 52 (two C and six D models) to Pakistan for $700 million. Pakistan had hoped to acquire the 8 F-16s for $270 million instead, with the rest being subsidized by Coalition Support Funds, but the US declined to subsidize the sale, and the deal fell through.
In 2019, the US approved a $125 million deal with Pakistan to provide technical support to existing F-16s.