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Pakistan closes door on new-built F-16s
June 23, 2017

Pakistan closes door on new-built F-16s

Pakistan will no longer pursue new-built F-16s from the U.S. The policy shift was conveyed to the Senate Standing Committee on Defence by Secretary of Defence Lt. General (ret’d) Muhammad Alam Khattak.

The decision came in light of the U.S. Congress’ refusal to offer Foreign Military Financing (FMF) support to subsidize Pakistan’s previous (and now defunct) purchase of eight new-built F-16 Block-52 aircraft.

In order to proceed with its modernization plans, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will procure used F-16s from third party sources, such as Jordan. In addition, the PAF will consider other aircraft types, namely from France and Russia.

Comment and Analysis

Although Pakistan will not procure new-built F-16s, it would be incorrect to say that the PAF’s days of buying F-16s are over – it no seems that the PAF is pursuing used and surplus F-16 airframes. Currently, it is in the process of procuring 14 F-16A/B aircraft from the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF).

In addition, the PAF is reportedly in talks with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to upgrade a total of 74 F-16s – this includes the PAF’s 45-47 F-16A/B Block-15 MLU, 13 ex-RJAF F-16A/B Block-15 ADF and the 14 F-16A/B Block-15s on track to being procured.

While the ex-RJAF F-16s have plenty of scope in terms of upgrades, there is not much left to upgrade in the PAF’s existing MLUs. The next step – beyond an airframe service life extension program (SLEP) –  would be the F-16V upgrade, which involves the AN/APG-83 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar.

The PAF could potentially procure used F-16s from other sources as well, including the U.S. (under the Excess Defence Articles program). Beyond that, it is unclear what else the PAF would look to procure in the lead up to its next generation fighter program. Yes, government officials have made note of France and Russia as alternate sources, but it does not seem the PAF itself has those countries on its radar for new fighter aircraft. At this point, to suggest anything else would be speculation.

  • Hashim Rasheed

    Another option would be to acquire used Mirage 2000-5 aircraft from the UAE. I think it is Qatar or Bahrain that is looking to replace them with the Rafale. Pakistan can, probably should, look to purchase these planes and can seek to get them updated from France, maybe to the Mirage 2000-9 or Mirage 2000-5 Mark2 configuration. Pakistan has a history of using the Mirage, so it would not be a problem technologically as well.

    • bill

      I think PAF should only go for second hand F16s other than that PAF should acquire J10b/c variant for intermediary role till production of JF17-BlockIII or acquisition of any true 5th gen fighter like FC31

      • Salman Khan

        We don’t realise that there is not much a chance that China would export the J-31. It’s one of their first stealth fighters. It’s not easy to give another country such fighters. Also, China is a responsible state. Given the glorious reputation Pakistan has in the world, this is a political uphill.

    • Salman Khan

      You know that when Pakistan makes an acquisition, it lasts decades? Mirage is a pure 4th Gen aircraft. Looking beyond 2020, I don’t think this is the best long term solution. And we should avoid French systems altogether as Bilal said somewhere on Quwa. The problem with french equipment is that they not only sell you expensive aircraft, they want you to buy the maintenance package as well. Well, as our admin said, this is not a wise solution.

  • Salman Khan

    Now, to begin a long era of national security jeopardy. Let’s all sit down and pray that the Pressler era doesn’t hit us again. Now, we are in for a wild hunt. Let’s see which country won’t give in to American pressure and re-export us the F-35.

    • At this stage the F-16s are just going to hold the fort down until the next-generation fighter enters the pipeline in earnest. And to be fair, the reason why the previous F-16 deal fell through wasn’t because the U.S. refused to supply them, they just didn’t want to subsidize them, and Pakistan didn’t want to pay for all of it. The issue of supplies – and more importantly long-term support – hasn’t been broached, thankfully.

      • Ike Khan

        You are presenting it as if it was a good deal if Pakistan paid for it. The cost is not counted only in terms of money. There is political cost and political cost cannot be determined, that payment may be due with any change in the international politics. Defense forces have to become aware and must not be ignorant of the cost paid by the nation. Pakistani nation has sacrificed too much for the military’s wish of equipment. Source it from where it has least political cost.

        • It’s not an issue of “good deal” – it is a question of what is reality and what isn’t. I am just explaining the reality for what it is – the PAF wants used F-16s as a means to hold the fort down until it can get the JF-17 Block-III into production. We can talk about the virtues of MiG-35, Su-35, used Mirage 2000-5s, J-10s, etc, all we want, but that isn’t going to change the facts as they are.

          As far as the PAF is concerned, there is no other option available at this time that is as cost effective (not least in terms of the fact that the PAF already has the infrastructure to support the planes).

          That said, if the Pakistani government has a problem with the PAF’s acquisition plans, then it is an obligation on the government to actually govern – i.e. stop the PAF. Not only that, but also secure the alternatives by not mismanaging the economic portfolio.

          Moreover, many other countries also operate F-16s, but it is only Pakistan that is somehow finding itself on the wrong side of the foreign relations stick with the U.S. Is that because of the PAF, or because of the people actually in responsible of managing foreign relations?

          • Quraishi

            How about F-15s?

          • New built F-15s – assuming the U.S. approves of them and Boeing is willing to sell despite its relationship with India – is well beyond what Pakistan can afford, and on many levels. The fighter isn’t widely adopted (its only users are the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Singapore), so the PAF won’t even benefit from economies of scale (as it does with the F-16).

    • jigsaww

      It’s not about pressure. No country can re-export anything of US origin without receiving exclusive re-export permission from US. It’s a legality issue. F-16 was the last major defence item Pakistan acquired from US. F-35 will never happen. No need for wild hunts or dreams. Greater focus on JVs with China, Turkey, and likeminded countries will solve the problems to good extent. PAF didn’t waste time on cajoling US this time around, and there’s no reason it should.

      • Abdul Rashid

        Hey Jigsaww. I have a name for me, you and Mohsin – we are the Thread Terminators.

        • jigsaww

          haha.

          • Salman Khan

            I know, the F-35 was just a metaphor I used to picture the whole situation, as all high tech stuff are there in the West, and every Western equipment is just as hard to acquire as if each equipment was put on the F-35

          • jigsaww

            Ok-

  • SP

    PAF needs to overcome its obsession with F-16. Buying around 30 years old plane and then wasting time and money on upgrading it makes no sense. It is better to allocate those additional resources on improving JF-17 and increasing its production.

  • bill

    other than Rafael what France can offer to Pak

  • malik jawad

    Why don’t we establish our own industry, we don’t have finances or the capabilities? If its financing then i am sure every Pakistani will happily contribute.

  • Sami Shahid

    Pakistan should stop thinking too much and it should get J-10’s from China if not F-16’s

  • Quraishi

    F 16 r now too old, doesn’t really provide any competitive advantage, no use getting a jet which is 30 years old. Air warfare have largely changed now, I feel it’s best to direct all resources to development of local industry and equipment/systems manufacturing.
    Minimum aircraft to be acquired currently should be no less then 4.5 gen.

  • You’re mixing several issues.

    Yes, even China wouldn’t sell sensitive technology to Pakistan; SSBN, the Chendgu J-20, MIRV, etc, fall under the purview of what China lists as off-limits.

    But you’d need evidence to suggest that the FC-31, a certified export program – i.e. a platform neither the Chinese government nor PLA consider sensitive to withhold – would be denied to Pakistan on political grounds. Yes, Pakistan’s international stature isn’t great, but let’s not paint it as North Korea or late Saddam-era Iraq where any manner of inherently non-sensitive arms transfer (remember: FC-31 was *not* deemed sensitive by the Chinese) is untenable.

    Finally, “5th generation” isn’t a blanket term to define greatness. The delta between 4.5 and 5 is basically confined to the latter’s supposed low-RCS profile; radar, avionics, etc are practically the same in technology. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff. The only country that has managed to make the gap substantial enough is the U.S., and in this case, it does seem its products too sensitive to export to just anyone.

  • Bourhila Reda

    I think that 72 Mirage-2000-9 from UAE/Qatar are the best solution they have only served for less than two decades, they are modernizated, so they only need a minor overhaul. these mirages will replace the oldest mirage 3/5 in the pakistani inventory and can serve for 20-25 years and later replaced by 6th G fighters + they are equal or superior than JF-17 Blk 2 and can be procured as aid or sold with a symbolic price from these countries.
    Pakistan should also seek used F-16s and modernize them to Blk52 standard if needed
    don’t forget that pakistan needs to replace like +330 3rd G fighters

    the future of pakistan airforce should be like :
    96 JF-17 block 2 + 96 JF-17 block 3 + 96 F-16 MLU/Blk52 plus + 72 Mirage-2000-9 + 72 J-31/F-60 stealth fighter (a total of 432 airforce fighters + 16/18 F-35B with the navy probably on the deck of a variant similar to the turkish variant of the spanish aircraft/helicopter carrier).
    or a total of less than 500 fighters if we add like 36-48 JF-17B.

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