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Biden Admin approves $450 mln F-16 fleet sustainment programme for Pak

WASHINGTON (PTI): Reversing the decision of its predecessor, the Biden Administration has approved a whopping US$ 450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment programme to Pakistan.

As a notification to the US Congress, the State Department has made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale (FMS) of F-16 case for sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of US$ 450 million, arguing that this will sustain Islamabad's capability to meet current and future counter-terrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on Wednesday.

This is the first major security assistance to Pakistan after Trump in 2018 had announced to stop all defense and security assistance to Pakistan alleging that Islamabad was not a partner in its fight against terrorism.

The United States Government has notified Congress of a proposed FMS case to sustain the Pakistan Air Force's F-16 programme. Pakistan is an important counter-terrorism partner, and as part of longstanding policy, the United States provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms, a State Department spokesperson said.

Pakistan's F-16 programme is an important part of the broader US-Pakistan bilateral relationship. The proposed sale will sustain Pakistan's capability to meet current and future counter-terrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet. The F-16 fleet allows Pakistan to support counter-terrorism operations and we expect Pakistan to take sustained action against all terrorist groups, the spokesperson further said in response to a question.

According to the Congressional notification, the proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions.

It said that Pakistan has requested to consolidate prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet by reducing duplicate case activities and adding additional continued support elements.

The US$ 450 million foreign military sale to Pakistan include F-16 Aircraft Structural Integrity Programme, electronic combat international security assistance programme, international engine management programme, engine component improvement programme, and other technical coordination groups; aircraft and engine hardware and software modifications and support and aircraft and engine spare repair/return parts.

The Pentagon said this proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the US by allowing Pakistan to retain interoperability with US and partner forces in ongoing counter-terrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.

The proposed sale will continue the sustainment of Pakistan's F-16 fleet, which greatly improves Pakistan's ability to support counter-terrorism operations through its robust air-to-ground capability. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces, it said.

According to the Congressional notification, the proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

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