By Shakil Shaikh
ISLAMABAD: With top security officials terming it a great breakthrough,the first batch of three latest version F-16 C/D Block-52 high-techFighting Falcons landed in Pakistan on Saturday.
“Theinduction of multi-role F-16 C/D Block-52 will give a great edge and apotent punch to Pakistan Air Force (PAF),” said a top official, whoexpressed his happiness over the arrival of Lockheed Martin’s F-16s atthe PAF Base Shahbaz (Jacobabad).
These US Falcons reachedPakistan under “Peace Drive I” programme, continuing a long traditionof naming F-16 international sales programmes with the word Peace. Theprogramme raises the total number of F-16s ordered by Pakistan to 54.The Pakistan Air Force received its first F-16, in the Block 15 F-16A/Bconfiguration, in 1982. Pakistan has been operating Lockheed Martinaircraft since 1963, when it received C-130B airlifters.
Trainedat Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Pakistani pilots brought the fightingFalcons to Pakistan. These pilots were the first to train in the USsince 1983, when the last class of Pakistani pilots trained at the LukeAir Force Base, Ariz.
Air Marshal Mohammad Hasan, Deputy Chiefof the Air Staff (Operations) and Air Marshal Waseem-ud-Din, DeputyChief of the Air Staff (Administration), along with other senior PAFofficials, received the aircraft at the base.
Pakistanattaches great significance to its air defence needs, as it had signeda contract with the US government in the year 2005-06 for theacquisition of 18 F-16 C/D Block 52 aircraft.
Under thisarrangement, PAF would receive these state-of-the-art aircraft from theUS in different batches. The delivery of all 18 aircraft would becompleted by the end this year.
The F-16 C/D Block 52 aircraftis a high tech fighter aircraft equipped with sophisticatedstate-of-the-art avionics suite, latest weapons with night precisionattack capability. These aircraft are much superior to the F-16A/Bsalready in the inventory of the PAF. In June 2005, Pakistan requestedthe Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of 36 F-16C/D block 50/52 aircraft. InJune 2006, the Pentagon notified Congress of its intention to approvethe sale and Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract for 12 F-16C andsix F-16D block 52 aircraft in Dec 2006. The aircraft will be armedwith AMRAAM and Sidewinder missiles and the Sniper targeting pod.
Thenew planes purchased by Pakistan, Block 52 versions of the multi-rolefighter, are far more advanced than the older A-model versions and willallow pilots to conduct operations at night and greatly enhance theiruse of precision munitions.