Pakistan approves purchase of Lockheed Martin F-16s and Chengdu J-10 fighters

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Pakistan’s cabinet has approved the purchase of Lockheed Martin F-16s from the USA and Chengdu FC-10 fighters from China.
Reports from Islamabad say the government has given the go-ahead for the $3 billion purchase of 77 F-16s in a mix of new C/D models and used A/Bs.

Pakistan submitted a letter of request for 55 new F-16s, plus 20 options, in April last year, but withdrew it in November in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake. A new letter of request will now be submitted, and a contract is expected to be signed in 2007.

Defence analysts the Pakistan Defence Consortium  says the F-16 deal is for 18 firm and 18 option C/D Block 52s, plus 26 surplus A/Bs. It says Pakistan wants the 28 aircraft embargoed in 1990, the first of which were delivered in December.

The Pakistan order will extend F-16 production beyond 2009, helping Lockheed Martin meet its stated goal of keeping the line open until F-35 Joint Strike Fighter full-rate production begins in 2012.

Islamabad is also expected to order up to 100 FC-10s, to be co-produced by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex as the JF-17. Deliveries are due to begin in 2007. The FC-10 deal would be for 36 of the J-10 variant and would be in additon to the FC-1/JF-17s Pakistan is already taking, this would be the first export of the J-10. Pakistan is moving forward with its purchase of up to 150 FC-1 light fighters, also known as the JF-17 and Super-7.

The Pakistani parliament has also approved a plan to acquire 300 Chinese SD-10 beyond-visual-range missile, 500 Raytheon AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs) and 500 Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs).

GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON, DC