F-16 supply to Pakistan a “down” in US-India relations: Parrikar - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 19 February 2016

F-16 supply to Pakistan a “down” in US-India relations: Parrikar

Pakistan on track to have five F-16s squadrons, more likely as Pakistan looks to buy from Europe

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Feb 16

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has joined the chorus of protest at Washington’s announcement that it will sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighters for $699 million, in the fighter’s most potent configuration called Block 50/52.

On Thursday, speaking to interviewer Karan Thapar on India Today TV, Parrikar termed the sale a “down” in the US-India relationship, stating: “I’m quite hurt by that and we have expressed our feelings very clearly to America.”

This came a day after Phil Shaw, the India head of Lockheed Martin, the company that builds the F-16, offered at the Singapore Air Show to “build the F-16 aircraft in India [and] to move our production line from the US to India with an Indian partner to help with the ‘Make in India’ process.”

MoD sources say the US proposal to establish an F-16 production line in India has been dead for some time now. The Pakistan sale only hammers a final nail into that proposal’s coffin.

The origin of the latest sale goes back to 2006, when Washington signed a $1.4 billion deal to supply 18 Block 50/52 F-16C/D fighters to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), an order that was delivered in 2010-11. That contract included an option for 18 more aircraft. The eight new F-16s, about which the US Congress was notified last Friday, are being supplied under that options clause.

The US Department of Defense (Pentagon) is reportedly paying almost half the cost as military aid. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that, between 2002-2014, the US sold Pakistan military kit worth $5.4 billion under the Foreign Military Sales programme. About half consisted of F-16s and related equipment.

The CRS reports that, since 2001, the US Congress has allocated $3.6 billion in Foreign Military Financing (an aid category) for Pakistan. More than two-third of this has been disbursed already.

New Delhi is not hiding its anger at this US largesse. On Saturday, the day after the Congressional notification, India’s foreign ministry summoned US envoy, Richard Verma, to protest the sale.

The Pentagon has downplayed Indian concerns, indicating the F-16s were being supplied for counter-terrorist operations in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas (FATA). On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Petro Cook stated: “We think these are important capabilities for Pakistan to go after terrorists… We don’t think it should be a cause for concern for India.”

Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak of the Centre for Air Power Studies, points out that such advanced fighters are not needed for striking terrorist targets. “When I last looked, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan didn’t have an air force! The war on terror does not require air-to-air missiles, airborne radar, and digital avionics,” says Kak.

Aviation expert, Pushpindar Singh, points out that the US is supplying the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano to the Afghanistan air force. “In those narrow valleys, ground strikes against terrorist are best delivered by the propeller-driven A-29 Super Tucano, which has armour protection and can even deliver laser guided bombs. The Block 50/52 F-16C/D is primarily for use against a modern air force like India’s”, he says.

India is not alone in protesting the latest F-16 sale. Influential Republican senator, Bob Corker, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has indicated he will, in the least, oppose the US subsidy on the sale.

US assistance has raised Pakistan’s F-16 numbers from two squadrons (40 aircraft) of earlier-generation F-16A/B fighters to four state-of-the-art squadrons that are a match for anything the Indian Air Force (IAF) can throw at them.

The most potent are the 18 Block 50/52 F-16C/Ds that Pakistan obtained in 2010-11, which are based in in PAF Base Shahbaz, outside Jacobabad, forming the PAF’s No. 5 Squadron. Along with these, the US supplied the AMRAAM (advanced medium range air-to-air missile), which can target enemy fighters “beyond visual range” (BVR). This was the first time the PAF obtained BVR missiles, obliging the IAF to transform their air-to-air combat tactics.

That contract also provided the PAF with JDAMs (joint direct attack munitions), which convert regular gravity bombs into “smart munitions”. A JDAM kit bolted onto a dumb bomb, guides it with pin-point precision to a target 28 kilometres away, using “inertial guidance” and a Global Positioning System receiver. With air-to-air refuelling, these F-16s can strike Indian targets near Mumbai and further south.

The eight new F-16s would come with all this weaponry, as would the 10 additional fighters on which Pakistan could exercise “options” to make up a full new squadron. Like No.5 Squadron, the new squadron too will most likely be based at Jacobabad, since the US has imposed stringent conditions on where Pakistan can base F-16s.

Wikileaks made public a cable (No. 113106/1201 dated June 22nd, 2007) that the US Embassy in Islamabad sent to Washington, revealing US conditions for basing and operating the new F-16s. It says: “The F-16… must be housed on separate, pre-designated Pakistan Air Force bases to ensure no unauthorized access. Furthermore, Pakistan may not have non-U.S./non-Pakistan origin aircraft or personnel at any of the bases with these F-16 aircraft and related equipment.”

Further, to keep Chinese technicians and pilots away from the F-16s, “No foreign units or personnel may be permanently or temporarily assigned at the bases where F-16 aircraft are assigned, parked, maintained or stored, or while deployed.”

Besides Jacobabad, Pakistan bases three squadrons of its older F-16A/B fighters --- Nos 9, 11 and 19 Squadrons --- at Sargodha, in PAF Base Mushaf. The first two operate 34 Block 15 F-16A/B fighters, which are what remains of the first 40 F-16s that Pakistan acquired in the 1980s. As part of the 2006 contract, the US provided mid-life upgrade (MLU) kits for these fighters, greatly improving their capability, though not to the level of the Block 50/52 F-16s.

No 19 Squadron has been equipped from 26 older (but upgraded) Block 15 F-16s that the US supplied at throwaway rates, in the category of “Excess Defence Articles” that the US military no longer required.

Pakistan also bought 12-13 Block 15 F-16s from Jordan. Now upgraded, these are used for training PAF pilots in establishments like the Combat Commander’s School.

Pushpindar Singh says Pakistan is also looking for old-model F-16s from European air forces --- such as Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Greece and Italy --- which are being replaced by new fighters like the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 Lightning II. “These can be upgraded cheaply with US-supplied kits, to replace the PAF’s obsolescent Mirage III, Mirage V and F-7 fighters that are nearing retirement”, says Singh.

Wikileaks revealed a cable sent by an exasperated US embassy official in Islamabad that noted: “The Pakistan Air Force is obsessed with F-16s… The request for used F-16s represents the GOP’s (government of Pakistan’s) desire to acquire aircraft at an extreme discount.” 


  1. What is interesting is how scared and worried IAF is of 8 F-16s. Is this lack of confidence in their 200+ SU-30MKI's, 60+ Mig-29 and 50+ M2K or their own ability to stand up against PAF? PAF truly is the Eagle of the skies in South Asia.

  2. Is there any point in talking about American supply of arms to Pakistan. I think we should ignore and go ahead with our lives.
    Just ensure we make 16 LCA next 20 years. Upgrade it every 4-5 years.
    Of course do same to develop local armor, artlllery etc etc.

  3. U.S should clearly state that F16 are supplied to Pakistan to maintain the strategic balance in subcontinent & prevent Pakistan from going all out in Chinese laps. We open manufacturers have always yielded enough political clout in domestic american politics.Elections are nearby. Also F16 are cheapest & best option for PAF i.e. ultimate combination of procurement & mantainance cost & also in quality favouring life cycle cost benefit analysis.India shoud learn & should go all out either 200+ LCA or for second hand but upgraded mirage 2000 -09 but only if available at deeply discounted rates thereby subsidizing the sale of used F16 to both Greece & Taiwan when used F16 are available at throw away prices in a trilateral agreement involving US pricking both Turkey & China both all weather friends of pakistan

  4. My observations about IAF are seriously true to my conscience & thought. IAF has enough twin engine fighter squadrons & it badly & urgently needs single engine light fighters for eg. Pakistan Air force only operates affordable single engine aircrafts. This make only LCA & used Mirage 2000 as viable options. LCA is indigenous so would be affordable in life cycle cost including Mid Life Upgrades & Overhauls.Also it will create & improve aerospace industrial envoirnment in India.So after testing first 20 LCA MK 1A, IAF will have to order additional 100 so as to take the total to 200+20MK1.We have all the technical expertise in terms of men & material & requisite experience to maintain few upgraded Mirage 2000-05 squadrons (which cheaply could be procured from Greece or Taiwan both will humiliate their adversaries either Turkey or China both all weather friends of Pakistan) Also we have already developed war tactics to use the Mirage 2k to its full potential (which serious negates option of used F16 as we don't have its mantainance infrastructure like pakistan & also its air force knows all strengths & deficiencies of F16's & we would take many years before we teach our ace pilots F16's flying & war fighting techniques).

    We could also bank role sale of used F16's (available) to both Greece & Taiwan which would be affordable option for both countries as they both already operate F16's.It will please both U.S. & also Russia would like to humiliate Turkey. Thus the Greek option is the best in foreign policy terms too.But LCA with exception of bad manufacturing practises by HAL, truly rocks as LCA is best option for india. Only highly competetive & multiple Private defence enterprise exclusively owned by technical (aerospace)experts is the long term solution but right now HAL badly needs to focus on its procurement & production envoirnment

  5. The largest fleet of single engine aircrafts in IAF i.e. Mig 21 is obsolete & way overdue for replacement. So do Mig 27's & we have enough planned induction of SU 30's that we don't essentially need other twin engined fighters making air force operations too costly. Even U.S. air force can only afford a mix of single engine light & twin engine heavy fighters & India should prevent this economic disaster. Also both future FGFA & AMCA are twin engined. Engine change, Overhaul, Mid life upgrades cost more than the price of an aircraft itself, sometimes more than twice the price of the plane itself. So a 100 million $ fly away cost plane sometimes may incur a life cycle cost of 300 million $ or more & that's the exact case with Rafael which would be economic disaster if ever inducted in numbers & too costly to overhaul if purchased in small quantities. Also French equipment are hugely costly to upgrade & French defence firms badly manipulate the political systems & use blackmailing tactics to charge exorbitantly for it as Mirage's 2k upgrade has shown. We badly need single engined aircraft like mirage & LCA only (& not F16's or Swedish Gripen) . The over charged China syndrome which few in IAF are exhibiting is driven by monetary & other interests created by weapon manufacturing mafia's.

  6. France has sold advance Submarines to Pakistan, but we still do business with the French without complaints, on the other hand US sells 8 F16, not even a full squadron and we are making a big deal about it.

    If we are to have a major say with the US, we need to partner/ purchase from them a bit more often. One cannot expect to have a say in something when the other party does not have a lot to lose. To me this is very basic principle of business. We purchase from the Russians, what do you think US thinks of that, at the end of the day we finance Russians to some degree when we buy from them by the billions. Foreign policy is a two way street, we cannot expect to occupy both sides of the street. It's just that simple.

  7. India's obsession with this relatively minor sale cane be viewed as a sign of extreme insecurity. To me, it comes off as if the IAF is very hesitant in going head-to-head against PAF despite having numerical superiority. This lends credence to the fact that the Pakistanis rule the skies when it comes to South Asia.

  8. @raw13
    Yes We are very scared. Little less scared than were in 1971 though when glorious Pakistani forces defeated India and took over Kashmir, Punjab and Gujarat from timid Indian army. When PAF destroyed 400 Indian planes without suffering any casualties. If I remember correctly, East Pakistan also fought and defeated India. Thanks to this even today both East and West Pakistan exist.
    Yes, we are super scared of everything "brave" Pakistanis do.

  9. @ raw 13 & Porkis in general

    Have you ever seen any aircaft the Porkis operate which they do not sing praises of even though it is a powered glider? The JF-17 Bandar for example-updated Mig 21 it is but listen to the Porkis flying it...the USAF finds flaws with their F-22's, the IAF will publicly shame aircraft (Tejas)and ground them in a crash (Mirage 2000, SU-30 MKI, Hawk)have we ever seen Porkis do it?

    Same goes for the Porki Mirage III, V and other neanderthal 4th hand aircraft, if the Porkis have it...simply has to be the best with no faults. Remember reading some Porki admiral claim that their 30+ year PC-3 Orion's can take out all Indian Navy Western naval depots...

    Why? maybe this can give a glimpse..i travel a lot and usually encounter Porki cab drivers at the late night hours (Sydney, Copenhagen, New York, Stockholm come to mind)...and a common mental condition they have is India and Pakistan are "same-same" (barabar wala desh in Punjabi) countries, and they act very surprised (in English-do not believe you) when you tell them about where the Indian economy is and job oportunities/development in India which culminates in them reaching the 4/5 star hotel, they are surprised how Indians can afford to stay at such expensive hotels...ROTFL...Porkis have a very high opinion of themselves (even their 15 year old Toyota Camry falling-apart cab is nothing less than the latest Rolls Royce) and a fixed image of India as it was in 1950.

    Dream on Porkis....i guess it explains the existence of Porkistan.

    On a footnote-bessotted Indian media also to blame. Comparing JF-17 Bandar to Tejas..seriously? One is a chinese reject design of the Mig-21, another is IAF pilot certified better than M2K, one sweated by India for 20+ years, other contract manufactured from imported stuff. In that regard, the SU-30 MKI is more Indian than the Bandar is Porki..

  10. It is past time to sanction Lockheed Martin, and treat any country that dares to sell weapons to Pakistan as what they are, supporting terrorism. China will sanction any US company that dares to sell to Taiwan.

    We should do the same, there is no reason to tolerate US arms sales to Pakistan. Cancel the Apache deal and buy the Light Combat Helicopter instead, we already have a superior alternative.
    Make it clear that billions of dollars in other US arms deals are also at risk, we can buy hardware from other suppliers instead of the USA.

    Clear coercive and harsh punishments are the way to discipline the badly behaved USA. BAD OBAMA BAD!

  11. I am delighted to see the confidence our young people in India's strength. For 50-years I have seen tremendous moaning and whining about Pakistan, whereas at least since 1963 it has been no military threat. Even prior to the post-1962 buildup, our navy and air force were much superior. If our army was not, it was because of a deliberate political decision to keep the army weak because our founding fathers associated it with the outgoing colonial power and the non-stop military coups among the newly independent ex-colonial states, including Pakistan.

    This was an extreme injustice to a highly professional force that from the start had total loyalty and respect to the Constitution and the Indian people.

    BTW, the same F-16 Block 52 that is causing our defense minister much sorrow in the hands of Pakistan, was rejected by us as too old. So its not good enough for us, but in Pakistan's hands it becomes a feared, lethal weapon.

    As raw13 says, Pakistanis must be superhumans with superpowers. Odd, that, considering ethnically they are exactly the same as us.

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