Pakistan has increased its requirement for new Lockheed Martin F-16s to at least 55 aircraft and plans to decide on a configuration within the next few weeks, writes Brendan Sobie.

Industry sources say government-to-government meetings held in Pakistan last month resulted in a letter of request for 55 F-16s, plus 20 options. This is in line with the 71 additional F-16A/Bs Pakistan ordered before an arms embargo was imposed by the USA in 1990, but well above the 24-36 Lockheed was expecting.

Another meeting is planned for later this month in the USA with the addition of representatives from Lockheed. Sources expect this meeting will result in a decision on a configuration, most likely Block 50/52 aircraft, and a letter of agreement.

The US government will then be able to notify Congress of the proposed deal, giving it 60 days to consider it. A final contract could be signed as early as September for delivery from late 2008.

The White House in March unveiled a policy allowing the export of new fighters to Pakistan and India (Flight International, 5-11 April). Islamabad's F-16s are to be funded partly by a five-year military aid package the USA has guaranteed Pakistan in exchange for its role in the "war on terrorism". Pakistan will have to find additional funds from its defence budget, but sources say it is uncertain whether it will receive enough for all 55 aircraft.

Source: Flight International