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Pakistan Fiza'ya: F-16A/B

In December 1981, the government of Pakistan signed a letter of agreement for the purchase of 40 F-16A/B (28 F-16A and 12 F-16B) fighters for the Pakistan Fiza'ya (Pakistan Air Force, or PAF). The first aircraft were accepted at Fort Worth in October of 1982, and he first F-16, flown by Squadron Leader Shahid Javed, landed in Pakistan at Sargodha Air Base on 15 January 1983 as part of a package of 6 aircraft (2 A's and 4 B's). The Pakistani F-16A/Bs are all Block 15 aircraft, the final version of the F-16A/B production run, and are powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan. All 40 aircraft were delivered between 1983 and 1987. By 1997, 8 aircraft of the initial Peace Gate I order have been attrited, hence 32 remain in service and despite the embargo, caused by the Pakistan-specific Pressler Amendment (see below), are being fully supported by commercial contracts. The F-16s were assigned USAF serial numbers for record-keeping purposes, and carry a three-digit PAF serial number on their noses; the F-16As being assigned numbers in sequence beginning with 701, and the F-16Bs being assigned numbers beginning with 601. The two-digit prefix preceding these numbers is the year of delivery of these aircraft. The PAF Falcons have a slightly altered color scheme, with the dark gray area covering most of the wings and the aft part of the horizontal stabilizers, and carry toned-down markings.

Peace Gate II

Seven years after the first order, in December of 1988, Pakistan ordered 11 additional F-16A/B Block 15 OCU (Operational Capability Upgrade) aircraft (6 Alpha and 5 Bravo models) under the Peace Gate II program. These aircraft were purchased as attrition replacements and fully paid for, but are still awaiting delivery in the Arizona Desert. The reason for this is that Pakistan got involved in a controversy with the United States over its suspected nuclear weapons capability. Intelligence information reaching US authorities indicated that Pakistan was actively working on a nuclear bomb, had received a design for a bomb from China, had tested a nuclear trigger, and was actively producing weapons-grade uranium. Furthermore, the F-16As of No 9 and 11 Squadrons at Sargodha have allegedly been modified to carry and deliver a Pakistani nuclear weapon. In addition, Pakistan has steadfastly refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As a result, in accordance to the Pressler amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, which forbids military aid to any nation possessing a nuclear explosive device, the United States government announced on October 6, 1990 that it had embargoed further arms deliveries to Pakistan. The 11 Peace Gate II aircraft were consequently stored at the AMARC (Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center) at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ., also known as the Boneyard. There, they were put in "Flyable Hold" for 5 years, during which time 85% of each aircraft's fuel system was preserved with JP-9, and each aircraft had its engine run once every 45 days. This resulted in the curious situation that most of those aircraft now have more engine run time than airtime, the latter being only 6 hours. This low air-time figure, plus the fact that these aircraft are the most modern F-16A/Bs built, is the main reason why countries interested in second-hand F-16s first look at the Pakistani airframes.

Peace Gate III & IV

In September of 1989, plans were announced by Pakistan to acquire 60 more F-16A/Bs. A contract was signed in the same year under the Peace Gate III/IV Foreign Military Sales Programs, for the delivery of 60 F-16s for US $1.4 billion or approximately US $23 million apiece. (349 note: we'd appreciate it a lot if anyone could confirm these orders; do Peace Gate III ad IV amount to 60 aircraft, and how are these aircraft divided between Peace Gate III and Peace Gate IV; also, how many A's and B's were ordered ?) By March of 1994, 11 of these planes had been built and were directly flown into the Sonoran desert where they joined the 11 Peace Gate II aircraft in storage. A further six aircraft were stored by the end of 1994, so that a total of 17 aircraft (7 F-16A's and 10 F-16B's) of the Peace Gate III/IV order are now stored. A stop-work order affected the remaining 43 planes of the Peace Gate III/IV contract.

The Brown amendment later eased the restrictions on weapon exports to Pakistan, but specifically excluded the F-16s from this release. Pakistan had already paid $685 million on the contract for the first 28 F-16s (11 Peace Gate II and 17 Peace Gate III/IV), and insisted on either having the planes it ordered delivered or getting its money back.

In March 1996, nine aircraft out of those that had already been manufactured for Pakistan were sold to Indonesia. However, Indonesia cancelled this order on June 2nd, 1997. This "unexpected" trouble with the Indonesian F-16 deal means a bigger problem to the Clinton administration both with respect to Pakistan and Indonesia. President Clinton had pledged to the Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that the money paid for the F-16s by Islamabad would be reimbursed if the equipment could not be delivered. In trying to come to terms with Islamabad's demand that Washington return the money the Clinton administration went on to see if the planes could be sold to a third country and the proceeds transferred. Interested buyers included amongst others the Republic of China.

At the end of 1997, with chances of finding a buyer close to zero, it was decided to take the PAF F-16s out of flyable hold and into the boneyard. The airframes are still for sale, and have been offered to the Philippine Air Force, in view of its modernization plans.

In May 1998, a rumor suggested that the 28 Pakistani AF F-16A/B aircraft stored at the AMARC could possibly be donated to the Air Force of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a part of the US led "Train & Equip" program. As Pakistan is already taking part in this program (training Bosnian Army Anti-tank missile teams), this is a solution that could satisfy both sides in this long dispute.

After the detonation of five nuclear devices by India in May 1998, in a remote area close to its border with Pakistan, Washington feared that this might escalate the old border dispute between Pakistan and India to a full crisis. In order to keep Pakistan from responding to this challenge, US president Bill Clinton suggested that the 28 stored F-16s would be delivered after all, in batches of 1 or 2. However, the internal pressure on the government proved to strong and shortly after India's demonstration, Pakistan responded by detonating an unknown number of nuclear devices.

Finally, on December 1st, 1998, the New Zealand Government announced that it would lease-buy the 28 Pakistani F16s stored at the AMARC. Three days later, the United States said they hoped for an "early and fair" agreement on how to compensate Islamabad for its aborted purchase of U.S. F-16 fighters. President Clinton briefed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on U.S. efforts to compensate Pakistan for the $658 million it paid for the 28 F-16s. U.S. officials said the United States has already paid $157 million of this back to Islamabad, raising the money by selling aircraft components to other countries. New Zealand Tuesday agreed to pay some $105 million over 10 years to lease the fighters, providing additional funds that could be used to give Pakistan some of its money back.

Modifications & Armament

The Pakistan Air Force currently has the Block 15S F-16A/B model in operation, that have an upgraded APG-66 radar that brings it close to the MLU (Mid-life Update) radar technology. The main advantage is the ability to use the AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 Amraam missiles if they were ever to be released to the PAF. Furthermore, the radar is capable of sorting out tight formations of aircraft and has a 15%-20% range increase over previous models. Currently, Pakistani F-16s typically carry two all-aspect AIM-9L Sidewinders on the wing tip rails along with a pair of AIM-9P-4s on the outermost underwing racks, while the Matra Magic 2 (French counterpart of the Sidewinder) can be carried as well. They have an important strike role, being fitted with the French-built Thompson-CSF ATLIS laser designation pod and being capable to deliver Paveway laser-guided bombs. The ATLIS pod was first fitted to Pakistani F-16s in January 1986, thus making the F-16 the first non-European aircraft to be qualified for this pod. Pakistani F-16s are also capable of firing the French AS-30 laser-guided missile.

Operational Service

Transition training for Pakistani aircrews and ground personnel was carried out by the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB in Utah. The first unit to equip with the F-16 was No. 11 Squadron based at Sargodha, which also serves as the OCU. All 40 of the Fighting Falcons had entered PAF service by mid-1986. This made it possible to establish two more squadrons, No. 9 Sqn at Sargodha and No. 14 Sqn at Kamra.

Pakistan was the second nation (after Israel) to use the F-16 in combat. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 in support of the pro-Soviet government in Kabul, which was being hard-pressed by Mujahaden rebel forces, marked the start of a decade-long occupation. Mujahaden rebels continued to harass the occupying Soviet military force as well as the forces of the Afghan regime that it was supporting. The war soon spilled over into neighboring Pakistan, with a horde of refugees fleeing to camps across the border in an attempt to escape the conflict. In addition, many of the rebels used Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to carry out forays into Afghanistan, and a steady flow of US-supplied arms were carried into Afghanistan from staging areas in Pakistan near the border. This inevitably resulted in border violations by Soviet and Afghan aircraft attempting to interdict these operations. Between May 1986 and November of 1988, PAF F-16s had shot down at least eight intruders from Afghanistan. The first three of these (one Su-22, one probable Su-22, and one An-26) were shot down by two pilots from No. 9 Squadron. Pilots of No. 14 Squadron destroyed the remaining five intruders (two Su-22s, two MiG-23s, and one Su-25). Most of these kills were by the AIM-9 Sidewinder, but at least one (a Su-22) was destroyed by cannon fire. Flight Lieutenant Khalid Mahmood is credited with three of these kills. At least one F-16 was lost in these battles, this one in an encounter between two F-16s and six Afghan Air Force aircraft on April 29, 1987. However, the lost F-16 appears to have been an "own goal", having been hit by a Sidewinder fired by the other F-16. The unfortunate F-16 pilot ejected safely.