With the induction of the latest version of the F-16 aircraft into the Pakistani fleet, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has gained the capability to carry out all-weather night-time operations, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said on Sunday.
Addressing the formal handing-over ceremony of the three Block 52 version F-16 aircraft provided by the US at the newly-developed base near Jacobabad, Qamar said the new aircraft would not only overcome Pakistan’s existing limitations of precision night operations, but would also enable the PAF to meet its goals more effectively.
“The mission of the PAF is to maintain peace with honour in the region; should this primary effort of maintaining peace fail, we will use our resources including these aircraft to defend our country against any internal or external threats,” he said.
General Norton A Schwartz, the United States Air Force (USAF) chief of staff, visited Pakistan especially to attend the handing-over ceremony.
US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Patterson, Vice Admiral Michael LeFever – the US Defence Representative in Pakistan – along with other senior PAF, USAF, civil and military officials were also present on the occasion. Qamar termed the handing over of the aircraft to Pakistan a “happy augury” as the deal for the supply of these aircraft by the US was signed back in 2006, but it became controversial at the hands of critics on both sides. However, he said the deal had matured of late following efforts put in by the “good people” living in the two friendly countries.
Power balance: Later, talking to reporters, he said other countries in the region already had such aircraft in their fleet and the balance of power in the region has been restored now that Pakistan has acquired the latest F-16 jets. As far as the overhauling of PAF’s existing F-16 aircraft is concerned, he said that initially, 14 aircraft from the existing PAF fleet would be upgraded with US assistance.
Ally: Meanwhile, Patterson said that the induction of three advanced F-16s into the PAF fleet was a symbolic and tangible demonstration of a strong US-Pakistan partnership and Washington’s commitment to stand by Islamabad in the longer run as an important ally and friend.
“Our two countries today share a deep and broad partnership, which is growing to encompass nearly every element of government-to-government cooperation. Under the Strategic Dialogue established by Hillary Clinton and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the two nations are working together on economic development, trade and energy, on healthcare and education, on science, technology and agriculture. Our governments share a vision of partnership today, which is unprecedented in the history of our bilateral relationship…” she said.
BY: Daily Times