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Pakistan to shop for US and Chinese warplanes

Written by: Staff
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ISLAMABAD, Apr 13 (Reuters) Pakistan's cabinet has given its air force clearance to open negotiations to buy 36 Jian-10 fighter aircraft from China and 62 F-16s from the United States, defence officials said today.

The officials confirmed a report in the Business Recorder newspaper that gave a breakdown of the air force's shopping list.

It included 36 modified versions of China's Jian-10 aircraft, along with 26 F-16s of Type A and B, and 18 F-16s of the latest Block 50/52 C and D type models, with an option for 18 more.

The newspaper, quoting an official document, reported that in addition to the aircraft, the government gave approval for purchase of 300 Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles of SD-10 type and 500 BVRs from the United States, 18 targetting pods and 500 joint direct attack munitions.

After the October 8 earthquake, President Pervez Musharraf said he would postpone the purchase of F-16s -- built by Lockheed Martin Corp -- while the government assessed how it would meet the costs of reconstruction and rehabilitation in devastated parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and North West Frontier Province.

The international community has since stumped up over 6 billion dollars in aid and soft loans to help Pakistan recover from the disaster.

Though no official figures have been released, the cost of the F-16s alone is expected to be around 2.5 billion dollars, as each plane costs around 40 million dollars.

The costs for the Jian-10 and the BVR missiles are also estimated to run into billions of dollars.

The Jian-10 is described by aviation experts as a fourth generation multi-role fighter aircraft developed by China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC), which is also developing JF-17 Thunder aircraft in joint collaboration with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra.

Pakistan's Chief of the Air Staff is expected to visit China in May, but any announcement on the Jian-10 deal could wait until a possible visit by President Musharraf, officials said.

REUTERS DKS PM2120

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