Pak not counting on more F-16s

Himalayan News Service

Islamabad, May 15:

Pakistan is reconciled to not receiving additional US F-16 combat jets and is examining other options to address what it terms ‘the regional imbalance in the skies’, the country’s air chief has said. "If it comes, it comes as a bonus. I am not counting on F-16s," Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat told The News in an interview published today. Among the alternatives the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is examining are the French Mirage 2000-9, the Chinese J-10 and the Swedish AJ-39 Grippen, Saadat said.

"Any of these sophisticated jetfighters could help address the balance of air power in the region. It is imperative for the PAF to equip its existing fleet with hi-tech air-superiority aircraft to counter any aerial threat in future," he contended. According to him, Pakistan was looking at acquiring 60 frontline jets in the next three years to replace 30 F-16s and 50 F-7PGs that would have to be phased out by 2012. In addition to this, the PAF would acquire 150-200 JF-17 Thunder jet that have been jointly developed with China as also 50-100 "sophisticated western aircraft", Saadat said.

The PAF had already presented the government with a 10-15 year perspective plan and hoped to get the funds required for implementing this, he added. At the same time, he maintained that the purchase of new aircraft was an exhaustive exercise as it was a major task to get best value for limited resources since prices varied with the technology sought.