US to bolster Pak military by F-16s, shadow drones



Washington: Pakistan is scheduled to get 18 of the Block 52 F-16s, Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate by fall and is expected to receive Shadow Drones within a year, a Pentagon official has said.

Islamabad is set to receive all this military help under the enhanced US-Pakistan strategic cooperation.

"I would like to think that we would get them (Pakistan) within the year," the official said yesterday.

"Shadow (Drone) is one of the things that they had asked for, and as we expanded and talked about other UAV platforms to be able to use is when they said: Well, let's take a look at them and then let's make sure we're picking the right one," the official said, adding that Shadow drones may in fact be the right platform at the end of the day.

In the last three years, the US has provided 14 F-16s, five fast patrol boats, 115 self-propelled howitzer field artillery cannons, more than 450 vehicles, hundreds of night- vision goggles, day and night scopes, radios, protective vests and first aid items to Pakistan's security forces.

"Other significant military assistance to be provided later through this year through our Foreign Military Sales and Foreign Military Financing programs includes the delivery of the first batch of 18 of the Block 52 F-16s scheduled for the Pakistan Air Force, to arrive sometime this summer; and an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, the first for Pakistan Navy, this fall," the official said.

In fiscal year 2008, the US provided in excess of USD 1 billion as grants to Pakistan in security assistance and training.

It, then, doubled in the last fiscal to just over USD 2 billion, and the figure is now projected to surpass this year. "This significant commitment highlights the importance we place on our strategic long-term relationship and support for Pakistan," the official said, while observing that this was being done to assist Islamabad in the fight against terrorism.

The Obama Administration values Pakistan's strategic insight when it comes to Afghanistan and the region, and continues to consult their leaders closely, as exemplified by numerous visits by senior US officials to Islamabad, the official said.

"Pakistan, is a key ally, and we face a common enemy and a common goal: a stable and secure Pakistan and the region," he added.

The Pentagon official said Pakistani officials were recently shown models of some drones in Afghanistan so that they would articulate their requirements.

However, the US would not provide Pakistanis with drones having strike capabilities.

"On the strike capability of drones, it's not US policy to be able to give any lethal capabilities with any of the drone technology that we do for any of the countries," the official said in response to a question.

PTI