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According to the above news, Pakistan is probably getting spare parts and engines for its grounded F-16s.

This is contradictory to the following news article -

... which says that Pakistan almost replaced all its US-made military equipment with Chinese ones.

My question is, if Pakistan wants a full replacement of US-made arms with Chinese ones, why are they buying new equipment from the USA?

If they love their F-16s, why are they purchasing off-the-shelf Chinese jets like the J10c (Měnglóng)?

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  • I am not familiar with the politics in this region but noticed, and suspect, that recent development between India and China has caused Pakistan to think about diversification of its arms.
    – r13
    Sep 9 at 16:31
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    Not everybody is familiar with this event, you shall make the date of event occurrence clear in the first place. I now think this is a bad faith question, which should be closed.
    – r13
    Sep 9 at 16:54
  • Probably unanswerable without resorting to speculation from what I can tell. And you seem to seek/upvote only the kind of speculation that jibes with your predispositions. What the $450 million package includes is described in the pieces linked.
    – Fizz
    Sep 11 at 20:47

2 Answers 2

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$450M is a rounding error when it comes to equipping an air fleet with jet fighters.

(This is also a good moment to be doing it, under Biden, who's OK to do business. Contrast that with Pakistan's time out in the cold, under Trump. Best do it now, just in case 2024 brings back a Republican POTUS. Perhaps even Trump redux...)

When Pakistan gets around to replacing its F16s, I suspect they won't be buying US gear. For now, it's a good way to keep their fleet readiness up. The "influence" can be a bit overstated as well: Iran kept using their F14s for decades, without much US influence.

Also the J10 seems to be a capable 3rd generation jet, designed in late 80s, first flown in 1998. That's not something you'd want to splurge much money on to equip an air force from scratch now.

I'd also give China a decade or so before I'd consider some of its traditional weapons fully on par with Western ones: a lot of their gear is Soviet/Russian derived (and we know how well those work right now). They haven't displayed that much aerospace capability (yet) and have a history of unauthorized copies of Russian jets. Jet engines are a hard tech to master - something like a modern passenger jet has a huge chunk of its cost and value accounted for in its engines.

But the Chinese are learning. Their latest aircraft carrier is using electromagnetic catapults, something even the US Navy is struggling with on their latest carrier. Their carrier-killer ballistic missiles - at least theoretically - are a potent menace to US carriers. I'd expect the most Chinese capability when they design things that the West has not done yet. Something like killer autonomous drones would play to their strengths in software and AI.

Last, when it comes to jets, I suspect we are coming to another inflection point - how well will stealthies like F35s work in practice? How viable will unmanned fighter jets be in 10-20 years? Look at the general disruption in military doctrine apparent from the Ukraine war. For a country like Pakistan, hedging their bets a bit and waiting things out, rather than committing immediately to what might be an outdated weapons platform in 20 years may not be such a bad idea (a 1960s equivalent was when all the F104/F106 interceptor type aircraft got ditched due to threat evolutions). The US is already talking about 6th generation jets, which, almost, implies a recognition that all isn't rosy with the F35 program and its planned 30-40 year time horizon.

Jet fighters are a long term commitment. Canada is still flying its F18s, first delivered in 1982 (which says a lot about our procurement procedures and military budget...).

And, if I were a Pakistani citizen/taxpayer, I'd be applauding this, unusual, prudence.

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  • Yeah, Iran still has F-14s, but they are seldom seen. Rumour has it they're not all that operational nowadays. And one crashed this year aerotime.aero/articles/…
    – Fizz
    Sep 9 at 22:57
  • The point with the F14s is that Iran had a lot of autonomy operating them. It's not ideal, no, but 30+ years of operation despite comprehensive sanctions shows what capable local engineers can do. An F-16 is not like an F-35 which is much more tied back to the US mothership, by design. And they are really good and robust planes. Sep 9 at 23:10
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According a Pakistani newspaper article (which is clearly not digging Imran Khan in other parts)

In April this year, COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa stated the country enjoyed “excellent” relations with the US and that the best military equipment Pakistan had was from Washington.

Since Pakistan hardly has any US tanks and the like (only ancient US M113 APCs), one might fathom Bajwa was mostly talking about the air force here.


Judging by the AMRAAM that landed in Indian territory last time there was a shooting between the Indian and Pakistani air forces, some in Pakistan seem to value their F-16s with their battle-tested BVR missile.

There's one FAS summary of the more recent (past two decades) US arms sales to Pakistan. A quick scan shows that the F-16s and their armaments were at the top of list, at least in terms of value

  • 18 new F-16C/D Block 52 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft (valued at $1.43 billion);
  • F-16 armaments including 500 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; 1,450 2,000-pound bombs; 500 JDAM Tail Kits for gravity bombs; and 1,600 Enhanced Paveway laser-guided kits, also for gravity bombs ($629 million);

Pakistan also has (more, 40+) modernized F-16AM and BM, with equipment upgrades apparently performed in Turkey, but with US approval and parts. The FAS doc mentioned these as:

  • up to 60 Mid-Life Update kits for F-16A/B combat aircraft (valued at $891 million, with $477 million of this in FMF; Pakistan has purchased 45 such kits, with all upgrades completed to date)

These seem to include new radar, electronics, cockpits, but there's no mention of engine replacements... which is interestingly one of the items spelled out in the new US package.

So it makes sense to keep those flying (and avoid any Iran-like experiences with their F-14 planes crashing due to engine failures) since the Pakistani acquisitions are relatively recent/modern. (On a quick look the missiles Pakistan has for its Chinese tech planes, like the PL-12 may be competitive on paper, but they are surely less battle tested, world-wide.)

I'm not sure over what period the $450 million will be spent, but according to Janes' the Pakistani military budget was $7.5 billion/year (nominally, but nearly $12 billion if you use PPP) with 21% of that going to the air force. So the latest F-16 maintenance contract is about 1/3 of that annual (nominal) PAF budget, which is not that trivial on that scale, but surely in the long run or if it's a one-off it is less of a chunk.

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  • There was a rather long story in which Pakistan claims the Indian MiG-21 that was shot down in that incident was shot down by an indigenous-Chinese JF-17, but plenty of foreign observers doubted the official Pakistani version of the events. --- Many observers, including India's close allies, also doubted the Indian narrative. What is your point? JF-17 was used to shoot six missiles or bombs on the Indian ammunition depot. When one Mig-21 and one Su-30MKI were sent to repel JF-17s, F-16s were sent to shoot them down. Hence, the American AMRAAM landed in Indian territory.
    – user366312
    Sep 9 at 20:52
  • Why was F-16 not used for the first mission? According to the sales clauses, F-16s cannot be used as aggressors.
    – user366312
    Sep 9 at 20:52
  • The Su-30s engaged managed to not get themselves shot down (contra to some initial Pakistani claims), ... --- Actually they were shot. India ordered one additional Su-MKI from Russian Federation later, on top of 11 crashed Su-30MKIs. Hence, the number of order was 12 units.
    – user366312
    Sep 9 at 20:54
  • @user366312: I see (Radio) Pakistan still insists it shot down a Su-30, but no direct evidence was produced.
    – Fizz
    Sep 9 at 21:07
  • I see (Radio) Pakistan still insists it shot down a Su-30, but no direct evidence was produced. --- according to Pakistani sources, that Su-30MKI's rubbles landed inside India. India indeed wanted to hide that because they spent billions of dollars on their Su-30MKI fleet. They have a little less than 300 Su-30MKIs.
    – user366312
    Sep 9 at 21:15

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