Saturday, June 26, 2010

US delivers new F-16s to Pakistan

The US has delivered the first batch of eighteen F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters, branded new, to Pakistan as the two countries strengthen their military ties.

According to the US Department of Defense, three F-16s were scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on Saturday. Fifteen more will be delivered later in 2010 and 2011.

"This is the most visible part of a strong and growing relationship between the two air forces that will benefit us both near-term and long-term," the department's website quoted as saying Air Force Maj. Todd Robbins, a senior official coordinating military ties between Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistan is paying $1.4 billion for the new aircraft, in addition to $1.3 billion in upgrades to its existing F-16 fleet.

Delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan was troubled in 1990 when the White House imposed sanctions on the country for its pursuit of nuclear arms. The sanctions failed to stop Islamabad.

Washington was previously opposed to the deal, citing high tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan in the volatile South Asian region.

The US says the aircraft will give the Pakistani Air Force an advantage against militancy. The new fighter is reportedly able to target precisely in all weather conditions, day and night.

The developments come at a time when the Pakistani military says it has launched a series of operations against Pakistani militants.

Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border remains a safe haven for militants, who have fled the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan has suffered a wave of violence since the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf joined the US-led war on terror following the 9/11 attacks.

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