Islamabad: Pakistan said on Tuesday it will acquire F-16 fighter jets from elsewhere if the US doesn’t arrange funding for the sale.
The statement was made by Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs, after the US confirmed on Monday that it can’t subsidize the purchase.
The US stand practically kills the deal as Pakistan may find it difficult to buy the planes at a price that is two-and-half times more than previously agreed. Aziz said Pakistan valued the F-16s for their effectiveness, but added that it could just as well use JF-17 Thunder jets in its “anti-terrorism campaign”, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.
The JF-17 Thunder fighter jet has been jointly developed by China’s Aviation Industry Corporation of China and its Pakistani partner, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. The JF-17 is reportedly going to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
The JF-17 can reportedly be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. It can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel auto cannon, reports say.
The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010 and as of December 2015, 49 JF-17 Thunder Aircraft were in service with 50 additional airframes ordered, of which 17 have been delivered.
Pakistan had earlier reached an understanding with the US to buy eight F-16 jets. Under the deal, Pakistan was required to pay about $270 million from its national fund. The US was supposed to provide the rest from its Foreign Military Financing Fund.
But at a congressional hearing last Wednesday, US lawmakers made it clear that they wouldn’t allow the Obama administration to use US funds for the deal.
Last Friday, a State Department official told Dawn that Congress had placed a hold on the deal, forbidding the administration from using US funds for enabling Pakistan to buy the warplanes.