Washington, Feb 13: The Obama Administration today said it has decided to sell eight nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets worth nearly USD 700 million to Pakistan, a proposal that is likely to face stiff resistance in the Republican- controlled Congress.
Despite mounting opposition from influential lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties, the US State Department notified the Congress that it has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Pakistan for F-16 Block 52 Aircraft, equipment, training, and logistics support.
The estimated cost is USD 699.4 million, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency a wing of the Pentagon - said in a statement, adding that this proposed sale contributes to the US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia.
Asserting that this will not alter the basic military balance in the region, the Pentagon said the proposed sale improves Pakistan's capability to meet current and future security threats. These additional F-16 aircraft will facilitate operations in all-weather, non-daylight environments, provide a self- defence/area suppression capability, and enhance Pakistan's ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counter terrorism operations.
"It will increase the number of aircraft available to the Pakistan Air Force to sustain operations, meet monthly training requirements, and support transition training for pilots new to the Block-52. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these additional aircraft into its air force," the Pentagon agency said.
"This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded," said the Defence Security Cooperation Agency. Obama administration's notification to the Congress comes amidst mounting opposition from lawmakers.
Early this week, Senator Bob Corker wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry that he would put a hold on any such decision. Now the proposal will go to the Congress which has 30 days' time to act on it.
In case of any objection, the process would be lengthier and complicated as the proposed sale would be debated and voted in the Congress. Normally this kind of situation does not arise as in case of opposition to major arms deals, both the Congressional leaders and the administration mutually work together to arrive at consensus.