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'Indian F-16s more advanced than Pakistan's'

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The Lockheed Martin F-16IN Super Viper

DALLAS (PTI): American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has assured India that the F-16s being offered to it would be "much more advanced" than the fighters provided to Pakistan.

"I can assure you, the Super Viper is much more advanced in all aspects than the F-16s being given to Pakistan," Lockheed Martin's Vice President-Business Development (India) Orville Prins told a group of visiting Indian journalists here on Monday.

The assurance comes in the wake of reports that India was concerned over US supplying a new set of F-16s to Pakistan, a decision which could be a crucial geopolitical factor when the Indian Air Force (IAF) decides on the USD 10 billion Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender, described as 'mother of all deals'.

"The F-16IN Super Viper will be more advanced than the F-16 Block 60 that was delivered to the UAE recently. The fighter jets being given to Pakistan by the US government are F-16 Block 50/52 aircraft," Prins said.

However, the official said he would not discuss anything more about the company's dealings with Pakistan, except the fact that it was not the firm that was selling anything to any country, but was just partnering with the US Air Force.

"We don't sell, the US government does. We only support the US government's decisions," he said when queried about the US military support to Pakistan in the form of a set of 18 new F-16 fighters.

Other bidders in the MMRCA deal were US' Boeing, French D'Assault, Swedish Gripen, European consortium EADS, and Russian MiG.

The programme to deliver 18 F-16s to Pakistan, named as 'Peace Drive I', will raise the total number of F-16s ordered by Pakistan to 54.

The 'Peace Drive I' order is for 12 F-16Cs and six F-16Ds, all powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine and these would be delivered by end of 2010.

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