The United States will transfer sophisticated laser-guided-bomb kits to Pakistan as part of a recent push to better arm Islamabad for its military campaign against Islamic militants, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Pakistan will soon receive equipment capable of converting 1,000 traditional munitions into 'smart bombs' that can more precisely strike targets on the ground, the leading US financial daily said on Wednesday citing unnamed US military officials.
American officials hope the reconfigured bombs will help Pakistan minimise civilian casualties as it battles insurgents in the country's tribal regions. Pakistan will also soon take possession of a dozen American-made surveillance drones and 18 late-model F-16 fighter jets, sharply expanding the Pakistani military's ability to track and strike targets in remote, insurgent-controlled parts of the country, the Journal said.
The daily acknowledged that "The laser-guided-bomb kits could spark some unease in India, where officials have been warily watching the expanded US military aid to Pakistan and wondering if the weapons would one day be turned against them."
The smart bombs should help Pakistan expand its military offensive in the insurgent stronghold of South Waziristan, the Journal said.
The laser-guided munitions can be dropped from Pakistan's current fleet of US-made F-16 fighter jets, allowing Islamabad to improve the accuracy of its bombing runs while it waits to take possession of new F-16s later this year, it said.
"This is sort of a short-term discussion, but it's one that's important to them because they're involved in current operations right now," the Journal quoted Air Force Secretary Michael Donley as saying. "They've been trying to improve their capabilities in the short term while they wait for these aircraft."
Pakistan will receive 700 kits capable of converting 500-pound traditional bombs into laser-guided munitions, as well as 300 kits that can be used with larger 2,000-pound bombs, it said citing Lt. Col. Jeffry Glenn, an Air Force spokesman.
The kits, which are made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co., contain computerised guidance systems for the fronts of the bombs and fins that are designed to be attached to the backs of the munitions for better lift and stability.
Once the kits have been properly configured, pilots or ground-based troops can use laser beams to guide the smart bombs to their targets, the Journal said.
As part of stepped-up US military aid to Pakistan, a new American counterinsurgency assistance fund for Pakistan is slated to increase to $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2011 from $700 million in fiscal year 2010, allowing Islamabad to acquire more US-made helicopters, night-vision goggles and other military equipment.
The new weapons transfers are unlikely to spark much controversy in Washington, the journal said noting concern about Pakistan has ebbed in recent months as Islamabad deepens its military and intelligence cooperation with the US.
US officials cited by the Journal say they believe the leadership of both al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban are hiding in Pakistan, with several top officials allegedly operating out of the Pakistani city of Quetta.