Pakistan’s air chief marshal Sohail Aman on Monday said that the country was in negotiations with the US to procure the latest F-16 fighter jets and by 2020 it will phase out some of its old combat aircraft, including Mirage.
“We are in talks with US defence officials to get some latest F-16s but the deal may take some time,” the Air chief told reporters after the rolling out ceremony of the 16th JF-17 Thunder aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra near Islamabad.
Aman, however, did not specify the number of aircraft which Pakistan is keen to procure from the US.
The new F-16s would add to Pakistan’s sizeable force of fighter jets which include more than 70 F-16s and dozens of French and Chinese attack aircraft.
Pakistan already have several F-16s which US provided over years since the two countries entered into a deal in the 1980s to equip Pakistan with the state-of-the-art aircraft.
JF-Thunder is the latest entry into the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and is replacing the aging Mirage.
The latest models of the JF-Thunder jets, which are locally produced in cooperation with China, are lightweight multi-role aircraft capable of Mach 2.0 (twice the speed of sound) with an operational ceiling of 55,000 feet.
The Air chief also said that by the year 2020, PAF will say “goodbye to some of its old fighter jets, including the Mirage”.
Expressing his satisfaction over the production and quality level of the JF-17 Thunder, he said it is at par with the F-16 in terms of performance and operations. According to a report in the New York Times in October, the US Congress was notified about the proposed sale of eight F-16s fighter jets to Pakistan just days ahead of the Oval Office meeting between US President Barack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
However, there was no mention of the deal during the visit. The daily had said that many in the Congress fear that F-16 jets are more useful to Pakistan in its long confrontation with India than for counterterrorism.