Pakistan’s decades old F-16 jets need key spare parts from the US
The Biden administration’s green light for key spares for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets “is not designed as a message to India”, a top American defence official has said. The previous Trump administration had blocked the $450 million programme for maintenance of the F-16s, which Pakistan bought decades ago.
On a question by reporters whether the F-16 upgrade and talk on US-Pakistan defence cooperation was a message to India for its neutrality on Russia, Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defence (Indo-Pacific Security Affairs), said: “Okay, so, no, absolutely not. The action on F-16s is not designed as a message to India as it relates to its relationship with Russia. The decision inside the US government around the F-16 issue was made, predicated on US interests associated with our defence partnership with Pakistan, which is primarily focused on counterterrorism and nuclear security.”
India’s defence ties with Russian goes back several decades. A large portion of Indian military hardware has been of Russian-origin, though in recent years India has bought US equipment and aircraft.
In a phone call last week with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had also conveyed India’s concerns over Washington’s decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet.
Asked about the concerns raised by Mr Singh, Ely Ratner said, “And as the secretary made clear to minister Singh during their call last week, this case did not include any upgrades or munitions. And to the first part of your question, it is one that we have been engaging on with our Indian counterparts, both in advance of the announcement, to preview it, and during my visit with Assistant Secretary Lu in Delhi as well.”
“So we thought it was quite important to be as transparent as we could with Indian counterparts, both in advance and during that decision. And it provided a good opportunity to have a healthy exchange on both the US rationale for its limited security partnership with Pakistan, as well as a good opportunity to hear India’s concerns about that,” Ely Ratner said.
Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-16, on its website says the four-decade old fighter jet programme which continues to be upgraded has so far produced 4,500 F-16s for 25 countries. These jets have flown a combined sorties of over 13 million, Lockheed Martin says.
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