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.