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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.

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  • by Hashim Rasheed
    Posted June 14, 2016 12:09 am 0Likes

    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.

  • by Salman Khan
    Posted June 14, 2016 12:36 am 0Likes

    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.

  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted June 14, 2016 12:59 am 0Likes

    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.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted June 14, 2016 5:33 am 0Likes

    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.

  • by SP
    Posted June 14, 2016 5:43 am 0Likes

    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.

  • by bill
    Posted June 14, 2016 7:05 am 0Likes

    other than Rafael what France can offer to Pak

  • by malik jawad
    Posted June 14, 2016 7:08 am 0Likes

    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.

  • by bill
    Posted June 14, 2016 7:08 am 0Likes

    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

  • by Salman Khan
    Posted June 14, 2016 8:51 am 0Likes

    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.

  • by Sami Shahid
    Posted June 14, 2016 12:29 pm 0Likes

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

  • by Ike Khan
    Posted June 14, 2016 7:39 pm 0Likes

    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.

  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted June 15, 2016 1:42 am 0Likes

    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?

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted June 15, 2016 3:26 am 0Likes

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

  • by jigsaww
    Posted June 15, 2016 4:41 am 0Likes


  • by Quraishi
    Posted June 15, 2016 4:02 pm 0Likes

    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.

  • by Salman Khan
    Posted June 15, 2016 9:10 pm 0Likes

    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

  • by Salman Khan
    Posted June 15, 2016 9:18 pm 0Likes

    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.

  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted June 15, 2016 9:45 pm 0Likes

    The FC-31 (J-31) was specifically designed for export.

  • by Salman Khan
    Posted June 15, 2016 10:34 pm 0Likes

    Still, China wouldn’t be let so easily to export such a fighter to a country like Pakistan.

  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted June 15, 2016 11:41 pm 0Likes

    How so?

  • by jigsaww
    Posted June 16, 2016 3:35 am 0Likes


  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted June 16, 2016 7:00 pm 0Likes

    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.

  • by Quraishi
    Posted June 18, 2016 3:55 pm 0Likes

    How about F-15s?

  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted June 18, 2016 11:55 pm 0Likes

    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).

  • by Bourhila Reda
    Posted September 8, 2016 7:31 am 0Likes

    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.

    Posted October 16, 2016 4:54 am 0Likes

    WHAT DO U MEAN WHEN YOU SAY COUNTRY LIKE PAKISTAN ?? Even Russia is willing to sale their fighters to Pakistan

  • by gng
    Posted September 23, 2017 2:01 am 0Likes

    Even if Pakistan got a 5th gen fighter, India will have them before Pakistan and in greater numbers.
    Also s400/s500 and hyper sonic cruise missiles. Lacking strategic depth(very deep sigh!) Even stealth fighters will be vulnerable as soon as they take off from anywhere in Pakistan. Pakistan needs to think outside the box. Good news is that Russia and China will need to deal with similar problems. They may not be willing to sell us any thing that angers India but we can keep an eye on things for inspiration as to what everyone else us doing to deal with new technology like newer missile defense systems etc. Special forces/tactical nukes will need to be considered. If air force can’t even take off because of s400 then you are looking at drastic measures. India and Israel would be raising hell on the diplomatic front(Iran and s300 is a good example) Pakistan doesn’t even raise the issue. Even to our allies like the GCC or Turkey, they could lobby for us. Just to raise awareness that if India gets such powerful system then it becomes can existential threat to us. Only way to defeat such systems may well be something massive that goes in low and fast and goes booom before the countermeasures strike. We could Come up with other ways to deal with the threat but at least someone should be making the right noises but even at the annual UN summit, we are talking about issues that put us on the back foot.
    As too the cost of newer fighters, we need calm down and look at what comes after 5th gen. No point getting cold war fighters, they will be no help, by the time we get them in numbers, it will be too late. Big boys are already looking at 6th gen fighters, 4.5 gen are for the Arabs who will happier pay for them so uncle Sam can fund newer systems. I didn’t realise that there was an actual USA law which says that they can’t get anything that endangers Israeli technical edge. Since even Israel and Europeans can’t get f22s, Arabs will not even get f35s. Pakistan can us gen raheel Sharif to convey what that means but I doubt he has any real clout over there now that GCC are at each others throats. Maybe we should just save the money and accept India and Americans hegemony.
    Then a country of 210 million can afford a few billion over ten years, just give 10% to clerks in wapda/nadra etc And they will raise it for you in half the time. Its not the money but how it will be used.

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