Pakistan is to further accelerate the modernisation of its military aircraft fleet, with the USA pledging an additional $150 million in foreign military financing (FMF).

US manufacturers expect the funds, adding to $300 million already promised for fiscal year 2005, could pay for fighter upgrades and additional helicopters. Pakistan is finalising a priority list for US defence equipment using at least $1.65 billion in FMF funds over five years.

Pakistan already has decided on several purchases, including 26 Bell 412s, 40 Bell 407s, 20 used Bell AH-1 Cobras and six used Lockheed Martin C-130Bs. Deliveries of the Bell 412s began last month and work on refurbishing C-130Bs is under way.

But industry sources say Pakistan has not yet issued a letter of request for a proposed mid-life upgrade of 18 Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs. Sources say Pakistan should decide on a configuration within the next several weeks, launching the licensing process.

The air force is spending about $75 million on the C-130s, leaving another $75 million for F-16 upgrades in the forthcoming year. Pakistan is also considering acquiring additional used F-16A/Bs and possibly new-generation F-16s.

The army is poised to spend almost $300 million over five years on its new 407 and 412 fleets and enhancements to its Cobra fleet. Sources say the army also has floated a requirement for additional attack and utility helicopters capable of operating at relatively high altitudes, perhaps funded by the additional $150 million.

Enstrom and Schweizer also expect a requirement for additional army and air force training helicopters. The navy is considering a purchase of six additional Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions. The US Navy is retiring about 80 P-3Cs over the next two years.

Source: Flight International