The sale of F-16s to Pakistan became a transformative element of the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship. In the early 1980s, the U.S. government initially agreed to sell Pakistan 111 F-16 aircraft. This decision was influenced by the close partnership with Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The mainstay of the air force was the F-16 fighter.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon was inducted into the PAF in 1983. The initial order was for 40 Block 15 aircraft (28 F-16As and 12 F-16Bs). The F-16A is a single-seat air combat fighter while the F-16B is a dual-seat combat capable fighter trainer. The F-16 is a true multi-mission aircraft and can carry up to 15,200 lb. of bombs, missiles and rockets. It presently equips No. 9 and No. 11 (OCU) squadrons of the PAF.
In an air combat role, the F-16's manoeuvrability and combat radius (distance it can fly to enter air combat, stay, fight and return) exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft. It can locate targets in all weather conditions and detect low flying aircraft in radar ground clutter. In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometres), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions.
In designing the F-16, advanced aerospace science and proven reliable systems from other aircraft such as the F-15 and F-111 were selected. These were combined to simplify the aircraft and reduce its size, purchase price, maintenance costs and weight. The light weight of the fuselage is achieved without reducing its strength. The F-16 can withstand up to 9-g's - nine times the force of gravity - with internal fuel tanks filled - more g-force tolerance than any other current combat fighter.
The cockpit and its bubble canopy give the pilot unobstructed forward and upward vision and greatly improved vision over the side and to the rear. The seat-back angle was expanded from the usual 13 degrees to 30 degrees, increasing pilot comfort and gravity force tolerance. The pilot has excellent flight control of the F-16 through its "fly-by-wire" system. Electrical wires relay commands, replacing the usual cables and linkage controls. For easy and accurate control of the aircraft during high G-force combat manoeuvres, a side stick controller is used instead of the conventional centre-mounted stick. Hand pressure on the side stick controller sends electrical signals to actuators of flight control surfaces such as ailerons and rudder.
Avionics systems include a highly accurate inertial navigation system in which a computer provides steering information to the pilot. The plane has UHF and VHF radios plus an instrument landing system. It also has a warning system and modular countermeasure pods to be used against airborne or surface electronic threats. The fuselage has space for additional avionics systems.
The key elements in the design are a very high thrust/weight ratio for good performance, especially in climbing and turning flight. The F-16 is amongst a few aircraft in the world which can go up in a 90-degree vertical climb like a rocket. Other features are a 'fly-by-wire' (as opposed to 'fly-by-cable') control system so that maximum agility can be extracted from a layout of relaxed static stability, a semi-reclining pilot's seat for added g-force tolerance, a clear-view bubble canopy offering 360 degrees field of vision for the pilot - perhaps the best in the world and advanced yet flexible avionics for long-range target acquisition and accurate weapons delivery.
F-16 Acquisition - Peace Gate
In 1985 the US Congress passed the Presslar Amendment, named for Larry Presslar, the Senator from South Dakota, to cut off aid and military sales to Pakistan if the President could not certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device. The Reagan administration supported the amendment. In fact, they helped write it. Even the Government of Pakistan did not object to the amendment because they claimed they were not pursuing a nuclear option. The Presslar amendment was considered a compromise. The Senator from California, Senator Alan Cranston, had another amendment that immediately would have cut off aid to Pakistan, without Presidential certification, because he believed Pakistan already possessed the materials needed to assemble a nuclear bomb.
In October of 1990, nearly 5 years after the Pressler amendment became law, President (George Herbert Walker) Bush was unable to certify that Pakistan was not in possession of a nuclear explosive device. As a result, all U.S. direct aid and military sales were terminated. At the time of the aid cutoff, Pakistan was attempting to purchase a fleet of F-16's from the United States. Because of the enforcement of the Pressler amendment, delivery of the aircraft - aircraft that can carry and drop a nuclear bomb - never took place.
The Pressler sanctions led to a decade-long suspension of security assistance to Pakistan and a "deficit of trust" between the two countries. The Pakistan Air Force was weakened by the Pressler amendment, which stalled delivery of F16 aircraft. The 28 brand-new F-16s were flown directly from the Fort Worth factory to the "bone yard" at Davis Monthan Air Force Base for storage. The sale of 40 F-16 multi-role fighter aircraft under the Peace Gate program to Pakistan not only encompassed a variety of geo-political, economic and military consequences for the country itself but subsequently creates unique challenges for USAF foreign military sales program managers. The suspension of US security assistance programs required under Pressler meant the suspension and eventual cancellation of an additional sale of F-16 aircraft that would have augmented the 40 F-16s Pakistan purchased in 1982. That cancellation has been viewed as a symbol of the collapse of the American relationship during the 1990s, a period which remains highly emotional for many Pakistanis.
Despite claiming to have a strong policy on nuclear nonproliferation, the Clinton administration consistently had shown hostility toward the Pressler amendment - the only nuclear nonproliferation law with teeth. In the fall of 1993, the Clinton administration called for the repeal of the Pressler amendment, but backed off after pressure from Members of Congress. The Clinton administration in 2004 began to float a new proposal to grant a one-time waiver of the Pressler amendment to allow for the delivery of at least 22 of the F-16 aircraft sought by Pakistan. The administration's proposal was originally unconditional, but was later modified with a condition that Pakistan promise to cap its nuclear weapons arsenal.
The Brown amendment, signed into law in January 1996, was designed to relieve some of the pressures created by the Pressler sanctions, which had crippled parts of the Pakistani military, particularly the Air Force. The Brown amendment allows nearly $370 million of previously embargoed arms and spare parts to be delivered to Pakistan. It also permitted limited military assistance for the purposes of counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, anti-narcotics efforts, and some military training. The Clinton administration hoped to sell these aircraft to a third country so that Pakistan can be repaid for the planes. In December 1998, President Clinton agreed the U.S. would repay Pakistan in cash and benefits the $463.7 million they had spent on the aircraft deal.
F-16 Acquisition - Peace Drive
The centerpiece of the security assistance relationship was the F-16 Peace Drive Aircraft Program. For Pakistan, the F-16 is a symbol of national pride and although the program began in the 1980s, F-16s continued to hold a special place in the U.S.-Pakistani security relationship. On 28 June 2005, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan of 36 F-16C/D Block 50/52 Aircraft as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $3 billion. In 2006 the governments of Pakistan and the United States signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) agreeing to the purchase of 18 Block 52 F-16s. The LOA provides Pakistan an option for an additional 18 aircraft. On December 11th, 2006 the U.S. government has awarded an initial $78 million as part of a $144 million contract to Lockheed Martin for long-lead tasks related to the production of 18 new Advanced Block 52 F-16 aircraft for Pakistan. The final Pakistan F-16 under this contract will be delivered in 2010.
Pakistan had originally planned a total purchase valued at $5.1 billion, almost all of it in national funds. The 2005 Kashmir earthquake and subsequent financial constraints caused Pakistan to reduce the number of new planes it wanted to purchase from 36 to 18, which lowered the overall value of the deal to approximately $3.1 billion. The 18 new planes are valued at $1.4 billion, with the remainder of the $3.1 billion dedicated to associated munitions (valued at approximately $641 million) and 46 Mid-Life Update (MLU) kits for Pakistan's existing F-16 fleet (estimated to cost $891 million). Additionally, the United States has provided Pakistan with 14 F-16s designated as Excess Defense Articles (EDA).
The entire F-16 program for Pakistan includes the purchase of eighteen F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft, Mid-Life Update [MLU] for 46 aircraft, and a munitions package that includes AMRAAM, JDAM, and Enhanced Paveway guidance kits. On 28 June 2006, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan of 60 F-16A/B Mid-Life Update Modification kits as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.3 billion.
As of late 2008 Pakistan operated forty-six F-16A/B aircraft. Thirty-two of these aircraft remain from the original forty aircraft that Pakistan bought in the 1980s. Since 2005, the USAF had transferred fourteen Excess Defense Article (EDA) F-16A/B aircraft to Pakistan. The United States Air Force (USAF) successfully delivered four excess defense article (EDA) F-16B aircraft to the Pakistan Air Force at Mushaf Air Base in Pakistan on June 28, 2008. Five USAF pilots ferried the aircraft from Hill Air Force Base. The four EDA aircraft are part of a larger package of 14 aircraft. With this delivery, the USAF had transferred eight aircraft to Pakistan. Another four EDA F-16 aircraft arrived in Pakistan on 28 July 2008. The final two aircraft are part of the Pakistan Mid-Life Update program and would arrive in Pakistan in December 2011.
The Pakistan F-16 program is composed of three Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs). The first LOA providing for the production of eighteen F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft is underway: four aircraft to be ready in June 2010; four aircraft in August 2010; five aircraft in October 2010; four aircraft in Dec 2010; and, one aircraft in December 2011. The second LOA provides for munitions and includes: five hundred AIM-120C-5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM); seven hundred and fifty Mark-84 2000 lb General Purpose bombs; seven hundred BLU-109 2000 lb Penetrator bombs; five hundred Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits; sixteen hundred Enhanced Guided Bomb Unit (EGBU) kits; and assorted bomb fuzes and support equipment. These weapons will be available for delivery to Pakistan beginning in June 2010. The third LOA provides for the Mid-Life Update (MLU) of their current fleet of forty-six aircraft. The Pakistan MLU avionics upgrade kits are being designed to provide the Pakistan Block 15A/B aircraft with many of the same capabilities as the new Block 52 F-16s that the PAF is procuring.
The Mid-Life Update will enable the Pakistan Air Force to use an advanced targeting pod that provides the ability to generate ground position data that can then be used to direct guided munitions to a target. In addition, the Mid-Life Update comes with an advanced communications system that enables real time communication with ground forces - a critical capability for Close Air Support missions. Combined, these systems provide Pakistan's Air Force with the technological capability to conduct precision close air strikes.
F-16s provide a critical counterterrorism capability to Pakistan and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has made extensive use of its aging F-16 fleet to support Pakistan Army operations in the Swat Valley and in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). According to information furnished to us by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, the PAF flew 93 sorties in August 2008 in operations against the Taliban. However, their current model F-16 can be used for close air support missions only in daylight and good visibility.
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