US arms aid reducing gap between IAF, PAF: Browne
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Last Updated: Friday, October 01, 2010, 18:30
  
New Delhi: Terming US arms aid to Pakistan as a challenge, India on Friday said the latest F-16s, missiles and munition being supplied to Pakistan Air Force (PAF) could "reduce the technological gap" with the IAF.

"It (US arms aid) is certainly a challenge, no doubt about that," IAF's Western Air Command chief Air Marshal N A K Browne told a press conference here.

"Earlier the difference of assets was a certain amount. But their acquisitions have seen to have reduced (the gap) between the PAF and IAF in terms of capability of their aircraft, Beyond Visual Range missile systems, day and night operations and precision guided munitions," Browne said.

He was replying to questions on the US arms aid to Pakistan including F-16s purportedly for counter-terrorism operations along its Afghanistan border.

"There are things actually that tend to reduce the gap. Pakistan is catching up with the IAF, which has always had an edge in terms of its size and platforms. But I don't think so (that PAF would match the IAF in the future)," he said.

Citing an example, Browne said the 16 F-16 Block-50/52 being delivered to PAF was a conventional weapon platform. "It can switch its roles from sub-conventional to conventional warfare. It can be done while flying in the air itself. These modern aircraft all have that capability," he added.

PAF received the first batch of four latest F-16s in June this year and have based them in the Shahbaz air base.

When pointed out that the arms supplies were supposedly meant for the war on terror that Pakistan was aiding against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Browne said, "It is all hocus-pocus very frankly."

On PAF's modernisation, Browne said Pakistan had been modernising their air force since 2004-05 onwards "substantially." In IAF's assessment, he said, Pakistan's modernisation plan was to a maximum extent focused on its air force with support and supplies from China and the US.

"This has resulted in them coming up to be fairly potent at this point of time. PAF is doing well on all air force matters," he added.

Asked if India may think twice about F-16s in the USD 10-billion MMRCA tenders in which the aircraft was a contender as PAF would have the platform in its inventory, Browne countered, "What difference will that make? The configuration of the F-16s given to Pakistan will be quite different from the aircraft (for MMRCA tenders) that you are talking about."

Lockheed Martin's F-16IN is in the contest for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tenders of the IAF against American Boeing's F/A-18s, Russian RAC-MiG's MiG-35, French D'Assault's Rafale, European consortium EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon, and Swedish SAAB's Gripen.

Incidentally, Lockheed Martin has officially promised that F-16IN would be "more advanced" in comparison to PAF's F-16 Block 50/52.

Defence Minister A K Antony has in the recent months voiced India's concerns over US military aid to Pakistan to fight the war against terror, pointing out that these weapons could be diverted against India, and demanded a "monitoring mechanism" to ensure this does not happen.

PTI


First Published: Friday, October 01, 2010, 18:30


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