Pakistan has delayed its expected purchase of 55 new F-16s until at least next year, but Lockheed Martin hopes to avoid any gap in its production of the type because Greece is expected to finalise a deal for up to 40 additional fighters by year-end.

Islamabad announced in early November that it would defer acquiring new fighters to focus on rebuilding efforts following the 8 October earthquake that devastated southern Pakistan. Industry sources say it is unclear how long Pakistan will delay, but that a contract will not be finalised until at least mid-2006.

Sources say Washington was preparing to give Congress notice of the proposed Pakistani deal last month but the US government decided against releasing the paperwork after the earthquake struck. Islamabad is worried that buying fighters in the aftermath of the disaster would send the wrong message to its people, although the acquisition would be covered partly with US funds.

Pakistan signed a letter of request last April to purchase 55 F-16s and take options for a further 20 (Flight International, 10-16 May). Lockheed was hoping this would be converted into a letter of agreement this year, followed by a contract award by year-end for deliveries from 2008.

Pakistan is considering General Electric F110-129-powered Block 50+ or Pratt & Whitney F100-229-powered Block 52+ aircraft and will decide on a final configuration after US Congressional approval is secured.

Congress was notified last month of the proposed deal with Greece, following its selection last July of the Block 52+ F-16 to meet an interim fighter requirement. Industry sources expect Greece to sign an agreement in the next few weeks for 30 aircraft and 10 options under a projected $3.1 billion deal. Lockheed needs to secure a new F-16 order this year to avoid a gap in production after its current order backlog is exhausted in 2008.

The US Air Force has awarded Lockheed an $89 million contract to supply Pakistan with six TPS-77 transportable long-range radar systems.


Source: Flight International