Pakistan to buy only 18 F-16 jets: report

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Islamabad, Apr 23 (UNI) Pakistan has decided to halve the number of F-16 fighter jets it's buying from the United States due to financial constraints.

Pakistan had earlier agreed to buy 36 of these fighter-jets at a total cost of 5.1 billion dollar, which included associated weapons, spares and upgrading of an earlier fleet purchased in the 1980s.

The proposed fleet of 36 new F-16 Block 50/52 planes was to cost Pakistan 3 billion dollar while it was required to pay additional 650 million dollar for weapons.

''The decision to reduce the order by half would also halve the cost of buying new F-16s and that of the weapons associated with them,'' Dawn newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

Pakistan, however, will still have to spend 1.3 billion dollar on mid-life update and modification of the F-16A/B aircraft purchased earlier.

Engine modifications and purchasing some new equipments for the old fleet will cost the country an additional 151 million dollar.

The sources said the new fighter jets will be fully equipped with weapons and facilities that come with an F-16 Block 50/52 aircraft.

The planes will be capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.

The United States will, however, have the right to conduct frequent inspections and inventory checking.

''The media stories that new fighter jets will not have the facility to carry a nuclear weapon do not make sense,'' said a defence expert.

He pointed out that the French Mirage aircraft now with PAF did not have such facilities when purchased. Pakistanis, however, modified the aircraft to make them nuclear capable.

Pakistan's request for new F-16 planes and for the modification for its earlier fleet was put on hold after the October 2005 earthquake.

UNI XC SZ DS1150

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