US arms aid reducing gap between IAF, PAF: Browne

Last Updated: Friday, October 1, 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 1, 2010 - 18:30

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