— State Department says sale won’t alter ‘basic military balance’ in region
WASHINGTON: The US State Department has approved the potential sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan in a deal valued at up to $450 million, the Pentagon said.
The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Corporation, the Pentagon said.
In a notification to Congress, the State Department “made a determination approving the possible sale”, arguing it will sustain Islamabad’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet.
The package includes the US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics services, a press statement issued to this effect said.
But the sale won’t provide Pakistan with any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions. The programme will not alter the basic military balance in the region either, the statement said in an apparent reference to India who the US sees as a bulwark to counter China.
There will also be “no adverse impact” on US defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale, it added.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which oversees foreign arms sales, underscored: “This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by allowing Pakistan to retain interoperability with US and partner forces in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.”
Pakistan has a long history of buying American military hardware, especially in the years after 2001 when Islamabad was seen as a key partner in the US-led War on Terror.
Pakistan bought several batches of F-16 planes, built by Lockheed Martin, from Washington before relations soured and the United States cut off subsidised sales in 2016.
The jets allow Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to operate in all-weather environments and at night, while improving its self-defense capability and bolstering its ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.
Pakistan, a State Department spokesperson separately said, is an important counterterrorism partner, and as part of longstanding policy, Washington provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms.
This is Washington’s first major security assistance to Pakistan since 2018 when then-president Donald Trump announced to halt defense and security assistance to Pakistan.
— With Reuters