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Pakistani Defence Minister: Other options besides F-16s

Pakistan’s Minister of Defence, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, informed journalists that Pakistan could pursue other combat aircraft options besides the F-16. Speaking at an international conference devoted towards understanding Pakistan’s geo-strategic interests, Defence Minister Khawaja stressed that Pakistan held the right to choose its defence vendors at will – it was not beholden to any one supplier.

Comment and Analysis

It is worth noting that the U.S. is not against the sale of new-built F-16s to Pakistan, rather, it is reluctant to sell the F-16s on military aid. The central issue at hand is not access to a new platform per se, but the reality that Pakistan’s scarce financial resources make it difficult for it to purchase big-ticket equipment. Pakistan’s last major known order was the purchase of eight next-generation conventional submarines from China; while valued at $4 to 5 billion U.S., it seems that Pakistan is benefitting from flexible term-financing arrangements from China. There is no other supplier able or willing to offer such support.

It is for this reason (among others) that Pakistan’s purported interest in the Russian Su-35 Flanker-E is – at best – a distant possibility, but not a reality. Pakistan’s “alternative options” at this time actually rest in the avenue of used and potentially upgraded F-16s, the JF-17 Block-III and acquisition of additional JF-17s, and investment in a next-generation fighter program, such as the AVIC FC-31.

In the short-term, especially in terms of quickly phasing out aged fighter aircraft, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s strategy ought to be geared upon the JF-17 first and foremost, and perhaps used F-16s if and when possible. As previously discussed on Quwa, the JF-17 is the PAF’s new qualitative driver – it is the platform destined to assuredly incorporate the latest in air warfare technology.

Sadly, the F-16’s potential (albeit diminishing) is capped by end-user restrictions placed upon the PAF by the U.S. For example, could the PAF simply go and integrate a high off-boresight (HOBS) air-to-air missile (AAM) from Europe? It cannot, not without U.S. permission. These restrictions are not set on the JF-17, and as a result, the PAF can arm the JF-17 according to its will.

That said, used F-16s – especially those that can be acquired very cheaply through programs such as the Excess Defence Articles (EDA) scheme – could be acquired to quickly phase out basic air defence/attack fighters, such as the F-7P and non-upgraded Mirage III/5. Comparatively low-cost programs, such as the Falcon STAR structural restoration solution or Mid-Life Update, can offer credible fighter solutions with the minimum in cost and risk. While not ideal compared to new-built F-16s, it is very perplexing to see the PAF not pursue this route proactively.

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  • by V S SHEORAN
    Posted May 18, 2016 12:31 am 0Likes

    Su 35 flanker-e will not be suitable for your air force if purchased in small number’s i.e 24-36 aircraft,to maintain such a small number of aircraft is not suitable and I don’t think your PAF will go for j 10b jet’s,I think PAF’s will purchase j 31 instead,it will definitely give you superior capability than f 16 block 52 and j10b.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted May 18, 2016 3:10 am 0Likes

    Some points to consider. While it seems Pakistan can exercise possibility of buying F-16s off the second hand market, export restrictions still exist on these countries. They will always have to seek US permission to re-sell these machines to Pakistan.

    Secondly, the cost of upgrades for used F-16s on the market will overall be a substantial amount. With turkey unable to finance that, you are back to square one. Also, the technology released will again be with US permission. Cutting edge and/or block 60 tech will not be released.

    Instead of going for used F-16s of 2-3 (or more) squadrons, it’s better to go for 1-2 squadron of SU-35 or another fighter, and fill numbers gap with JF-17 block 3. Now is the time to make the switch.

    The understanding that US is not against sale of F-16s to Pakistan is just the start. Eventually US is moving towards not only be against sale of F-16s but also spare support, and other weaponry. FMF and whatever aid there was, will also be cut off on similar arguments of not doing enough. Pakistan ought to see that. Three months ago or so when F-16s were seen coming in freely, I pointed out if PAF has even given thought to repeat of 90’s era at some point, with possible cannibalization of existing F-16 fleet. That time has arrived, so it seems.

  • by WARRIOR
    Posted May 18, 2016 6:07 am 0Likes

    Im not much aware about price difference of j-31 n SU 35
    J31 is low observable than su 35 n in my opinion more suitable for Pakistan if they can sign a deal like jf17
    We need to invest in j 31 platform a j 31 with western avionics can be a deadly weapon and in future we can replace even f16 with j 31 Not sure about range difference of j 31 n f 16 but I think j 31 range will be more than f16 as it is a bigger machine than f16
    We will have to retire all f 16 by 2035 n j 31 is best possible alternate
    Best thing that j 31 will offer us is no political pressure we can integrate anything we want

  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted May 18, 2016 6:32 am 0Likes

    The PAF can use the time today to stock up on mothballed F-16 airframes to build up the base of spare parts and attrition replacements.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 18, 2016 7:40 am 0Likes

    Is not re-selling Pakistan’s own fleet of F16s, maybe just the older platforms to begin with, an option for PAF? To think about phasing out F16’s altogether a little bit earlier than would be the case anyway down the road. Why keep wrestling with fears of future spare parts and support. The money from the sales can be invested in JFT III or towards SU-35.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 18, 2016 7:47 am 0Likes

    Oh here you are Jigsaww, everybody’s darling. I hadn’t quite finished picking your brains on the SSBN thread yet. Maybe next time when a relevant topic is posted.

  • by Abdullah Aman
    Posted May 18, 2016 7:50 am 0Likes

    to buy older planes for spare parts that will make it more expensive

  • by jigsaww
    Posted May 18, 2016 11:07 am 0Likes

    Lol. Bilal became the show stopper.
    I did see however opinions switching from “NO TRIAD NO SSBNs” to “go for triad” towards the end, after bilal’s comments.
    Not a complete waste of effort after all.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted May 18, 2016 11:17 am 0Likes

    Selling is so not happening.
    I think PAF is going to fly F-16s until 2090, by the look of it.
    The world will forget Romeo Juliet, Kate and Leopold by the time PAF is done with F-16s.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 18, 2016 11:38 am 0Likes

    2090?! Lol, that is good. Historic fighter jets have an appeal all their own. I did offer to drive Mohsin down to RAF museum near me but he couldn’t take up the offer.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 18, 2016 12:03 pm 0Likes

    I cannot say to what extent Bilal’s comment caused the opinion to switch in favour of SSBN. He was non-committal at best.

    Oops, we’re risking sliding off-topic here.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 18, 2016 3:05 pm 0Likes

    It’s a shame PAF just won’t allow themselves to benefit from my deep insight on the issue [rolls eyes]. I say stop chasing the 8 new F16s, look to selling the ones they already have, ramp up JF-17 production and look for a another platform to replace the F16.

    Maybe, JUST maybe, they will decide to heed my qualified input some time this side of Eternity.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 18, 2016 4:57 pm 0Likes

    Why is everyone so quiet on this thread? I would’ve thought it had the potential to get a great discussion going. Come on guys, lets get cooking on gas. More fun and informative like that.

  • by Khan
    Posted May 18, 2016 7:15 pm 0Likes

    what about the claim of chinese expert regarding J10b that its better than Su30, Eurofighter and rafale?
    any information about J10c and its capabilities? Why cant we go for them before acquiring FC31 instead of f16s?
    Plz shed some light on it.

  • by Abdullah Aman
    Posted May 18, 2016 10:56 pm 0Likes

    to answer you previous question that JF-17 block III will be most cost effective then buying J-10B

    JF-17 block III still be a light weight fighter will load limit of 4500KG or 5500KG F-16 and J-10B are medium weight fighters with 9000 and 8000 load limit and PAF need at least one big fighter

    my point was if we are not getting all spare parts and new weapon system for F-16 then F-16 will lose turkey can only give us few of the spare parts even if we get old F-16 and upgrade them we will run out spare parts even with US deal for F-16 we weren’t receiving any new weapon system

    as for J-31 it will not be ready till 2023 or 2025 in end pakistan have integrate a new plane before 5th generation J-10BorC seems likely to be the only option

  • by jigsaww
    Posted May 19, 2016 2:43 am 0Likes

    Time and change will commit everyone. You’ll see.
    It takes time to see the bigger picture.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted May 19, 2016 2:59 am 0Likes

    just In case you’re serious on that thought. PAF has decades of experience flying the F-16s. It will take hell of time and resources to completely switch to another platform abruptly. It’s kinda impractical on so many levels. We all agree on switch, PAF itself. It just has to be slow and steady. Introducing another platform alongside is no problem technically.

    They are still trying to secure one more squadron of Blk 52’s with FMF.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted May 19, 2016 5:20 am 0Likes

    Logic does not add up. If 36 Rafales (or 45 odd mirages) are suitable for Hindustan, why 36 SU-35 won’t be suitable for PAF?

    Understand the purpose, you’ll understand the acquisition. The purpose is of strategic, not tactical nature here. PAF will deploy SU-35 to dual role. Deep (N) strike and maritime security. Hindustan will also switch roles of N strike from Mirages to Rafales. It’s a strategic acquisition for both. But SU-35 just might never happen if Rafale/F-18 do not happen. In present scenario, PAF will find it OK to stick to JF-17 and whatever F-16s it has. A new acquisition by hindustan will trigger a deal for PAF also.

    J-31 is far far away.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 19, 2016 5:52 am 0Likes

    I was not too serious at all as far as the content of my comment is concerned but the intent of posting it was serious
    I wanted a response but not quite how you have done it. I was hoping someone would down-vote me, tell me I’m talking a complete load of rubbish and THEN present the reasons to explain why. Other might have jumped in to voice their opinions and we would have had a lively discussion going, getting somewhere, cooking on gas. But it’s just nae happening, Cap’n. It’s nae.

  • by Abdul Rashid
    Posted May 19, 2016 10:05 am 0Likes

    If PAF can acquire 36 SU-35s as Jigsaww suggested would that do you think eliminate the need to go for J10B/C or do you believe we have a need for the J10 regardless of the SU-35 or equivalent?

  • by Atif
    Posted May 19, 2016 12:41 pm 0Likes

    Let’s design our own fighter Mark 4.0
    But we lacks engineers, scientists, and R&D by Army.
    We need to start building our own Nuts and Bolts now/

  • by Abdullah Aman
    Posted May 19, 2016 9:30 pm 0Likes

    SU-35 is a heavy fighter more costly to buy and to maintain for 36 SU-35 we need pay for them full amount we can’t buy them on lone and PAF require at least 100 big fighter

    if F-16 works then adding SU-35 make sense if PAF don’t get spare parts for F-16 then J-10 is better choice because we can add weapons system and upgrade it of our liking that’s the benefit of J-10 we can buy them on soft lone from China

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