Islamabad: Deliveries of an unspecified number of state-of-the-art, F-16C/Dfighter jets, has begun by the United States to Pakistan, according to Pakistan foreign minister, Khurshid M Kasuri. The foreign minister did not elaborate on the numbers involved.
Islamabad had initially projected a requirement for 86 F-16s, but reduced the numbers after the October 2006 earthquake, which dealt a serious blow to the country's economy. The revised purchase order, apparently, is only for 36 of these aircraft.
"We have reduced the numbers because of budget constraints," Kasuri said, adding, "The Americans are interested in selling as many as we want."
In March 2005, the US reversed a 15-year ban on the supply of these sophisticated jets to Pakistan, which it had imposed following a dispute over Islamabad's nuclear programme.
The foreign minister also said that Pakistan had requested affiliated weapons systems with the F-16s, and that those too are being delivered. Once again, he declined to go into details about the systems involved.
As for nuclear weapon compatibility, while some reports had mentioned that the US did not want to deliver systems that could be used for carrying a nuclear warhead, Kasuri was assertive in responding that Pakistan would not accept "any toothless weapon" and would only take "what meets our defence need."
Kasuri's comments were reported by Pakistan's national daily, The Dawn, in a report from Washington, where Kasuri held a briefing.
The US, he said, has also agreed to sell new equipment to help Pakistan improve its capability to monitor the restive Pak-Afghan border. He also said that the Americans have agreed to train Pakistani troops as well.