Pakistan is considering buying used F-16 fighter jets from Jordan after a plan to buy eight of the aircraft from the United States fell through because of the refusal of the US Congress to finance the deal. Some of Pakistan’s fleet of F-16 jets are due to be decommissioned in the next few years and the government says it needs the aircraft to fight Islamist militants in remote mountains near Afghanistan.
The military also sees the aircraft as vital in case of war against old rival India. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.
“We are now going for a third-party transfer of F-16s and have an offer from Jordan,” Defence Secretary Alam Khattak told a joint sitting of the Senate defence and foreign affairs committees on Monday, newspapers reported.
An air force spokesman declined to say how many F-16s Pakistan has but the number of the aircraft in service is believed to be about 70.
Jordan had offered to sell Pakistan 16 used F-16s of the Block-30 variant, an older version than the Block-52s that Pakistan would have obtained from the United States, according to the media.
The US deal, valued at $699 million, came unstuck after the US Congress refused to authorise the use of US government funds to pay for the aircraft under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme.
Members of the US Congress, led by Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker, demanded that Pakistan stops harbouring militant groups like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network, which are leading an insurgency against a U.S.-backed government in Kabul.
Pakistan says it is acting against the militants, citing military operations in lawless ethnic Pashtun lands that border Afghanistan.
Pakistan says the F-16s, with their precision strike ability and night-flying capability, are essential for that fight.
The difficulty over the F-16 deal was the latest sign of increasingly frayed ties between Pakistan and the United States.
Last month, a US drone killed then chief of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansour, on Pakistani soil.
Pakistan condemned the strike as a violation of its sovereignty, and as not being conducive towards encouraging the Taliban to enter talks with the Afghan government