The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is to receive another batch of six F-16 combat jets today, reliable sources told The Express Tribune.
The latest version of F-16s is scheduled to land at Shahbaz Airbase near Jacobabad. The PAF had already received six F-16s this year.
Air Commodore Tariq Qamar Yazdani, director media affairs, confirmed the news of the arrival of F-16s but avoided giving the exact date.
Pakistan ordered 18 new C/D Block 52 versions of the F-16s from the US. An agreement to that effect was signed between the two countries in 2005-06 with officials saying the jet would enhance the air force’s defence capabilities.
The US delivered the first batch of Block 52 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to Pakistan in June this year while the second batch was received last month.
The delivery of the remaining aircraft will be completed by December.
According to the sources, American air force engineers will accompany the delivery of the F-16s and supervise not only the airbase but also the operations to be carried out by PAF against Taliban and al Qaeda.
It is expected that the aircraft will be handed over to PAF by the US officials at a simple ceremony at Shahbaz Airbase. The F-16 Block 52 aircraft are equipped with a sophisticated avionics suite and the latest weapons with precision night attack capability, the PAF spokesperson said.
These aircraft are part of the PAF’s bid to modernise and enhance its air defence capabilities, officials said.
The PAF desires to maintain peace with honour in the region. However, if required it will use these aircraft along with all the capabilities at its disposal to defend Pakistan, the spokesperson said.
It is said officially that the current fleet of F-16 aircraft is being used in the fight against militancy in the country’s tribal belt.
Pakistan is paying $1.4 billion for the jets and an additional $1.3 billion for the upgrade of its existing fleet.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2010.