Pak expedites weapons purchase to fight militancy
Islamabad, Feb 23: Pakistan has expedited efforts to acquire military equipment and weapons to combat militancy as a fresh bout of terror attacks have killed over 100 people.
At least three such deals were struck with the US this week, which involve helicopters and military vehicles that would enhance the military's capability to pursue militants in difficult terrains, Dawn reported.
Earlier this week, Pakistan concluded a deal with an Italian aerospace and defence firm, Leonardo S.P.A. for purchasing an unspecified number of AW139 helicopters. Deliveries are expected to begin by mid-2017.
Despite uncertainty about bilateral relations under the Trump administration, Pakistan is also purchasing weapons from the US. Last year, the US Congress stopped the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan but the move did not affect the weapons needed to combat terrorists.
The US media reported on Tuesday that Bell Helicopter would deliver three Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan this year. This will be the first of a total shipment of 12 helicopters. The remaining nine will arrive in 2018. Pakistan ordered the first three helicopters in August 2015 and placed an additional order for nine helicopters in April last year.
A US Department of Defence notification said nine AH-1Z Viper helicopters would cost Pakistan an estimated USD 170.2 million. Pakistan's original request included the sale of 1,000 AGM-114 R Hellfire II missiles as well. Pakistan will also receive four Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters in 2017.
The US media noted that the Mi-35M was the export version of the Mi-24 gunship and was particularly suited for operations in mountainous terrain. Pakistan Army Aviation could acquire up to 20 Mi-35Ms in the years ahead. Islamabad is also considering the Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 attack helicopter or the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group Z-10 helicopter gunship as an alternative to the Mi-35M.
The new gunships would slowly phase out Pakistan Army Aviation's obsolete fleet of US-made AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, the media reported. Pakistan signed another USD 35 million deal with a US firm, Navistar Defence, for manufacturing 40 mine-resistant ambush-protected MaxxPro Dash DXM vehicles.
The contract, awarded under US foreign military sales arrangement, includes manufacturing of various support items, logistics and technical support services.
At least eight persons were killed and 20 others injured today in a powerful explosion that ripped through a building in a defence locality in Lahore. On February 16, a suicide bomber killed 88 people at a famed Sufi shrine in Sindh province. Following the attack, the army launched an offensive against militants and claimed to have killed more than 130 terrorists across the country.