PAF to use F-16s as it wishes
By Muhammad Anis
ISLAMABAD: Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman on Sunday maintained that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) would employ all its assets, including the newly-inducted F-16 C/D Block 52 aircraft, to defend the country against all external and internal threats.
“Our mission is to maintain peace with honour in the region but should this primary effort of maintaining peace fails, the PAF will employ all its assets, including these aircraft, to defend the country against external and internal security threats,Â” said the air chief while speaking at the handing over ceremony of the first batch of F-16 C/D Block 52 aircraft and later talking to newsmen at the PAF Base Shahbaz (Jacobabad).
US Ambassador Anne W Patterson was also present at the impressive ceremony held at the newly-furbished and the most modern airbase of the country.
Answering a question, the air chief said the acquisition of hi-tech Falcons would neither spark an arms race nor alter the balance of power in the region. He observed that it would rather restore the balance of power as the neighbours already had hi-tech aircraft in their inventory.
To another query, he maintained that there was no restriction on the use of the new Falcons against any specific country.
He was responding to a question on the impression that the modern planes had been given to Pakistan with the condition that these would in no case be used against a particular country. “You have also heard my speech. There is no such restriction,” he maintained.
To another question, the air chief said the induction of 18 such F-16s into the PAF would be completed by December this year.
Observing that Pakistan and the United States were allies in the war against terrorism and extremism, he stressed that trust between the two countries was an essential element required to achieve success. “I had mentioned during the rolling out ceremony of the F-16s in the US that the process of trust building will start when I will see these aircraft flying in Pakistani air space by Pakistani pilots,Â” he recalled.
The air chief noted that the delivery of the aircraft was the beginning of the process to develop trust. He said the trust between the two countries would take some time to be established fully, but said the ceremony was an important step in that direction. “We should continue to take such steps to further develop the trust between the two countries,” he added.
He said the new F-16 aircraft provide the PAF all-weather precision attack capability day and night. This capability would add a new dimension to the PAF potential. Operationalising the capabilities of these new aircraft and mastering the technology is a challenge for the PAF, he said.
The air chief said the new capabilities of this weapon system would be operationalised and employed in the near future. “This technology will not only eliminate the existing limitations of precision night operations but also enable the PAF to meet its mission to maintain peace with honour in the region,” he said.
He recalled that critics questioned the decision, saying that the F-16s would have no role in the fight against terrorism and cynics challenged the wisdom of a contract with the US, based on the past experience.
But, he praised the dedication and efforts of Pakistani and US officials who helped in accomplishing the task. “It is like a dream comes true,” Rao Qamar said.
US Air Chief Norton A Schwartz said the induction of state-of-the-art F-16s with night vision devices would effectively enhance the PAF’s capability in destroying extremists.
Paying tributes to Pakistani forces and people for fighting against terrorism, he said the US stands by Pakistan in this war. He pointed out that all the eight Pakistani pilots were rigorously trained in the US in combat operations and other techniques and they would further train the new generation of F-16 pilots in Pakistan. He termed the PAF Base Shahbaz in Jacobabad a world-class base.
US Ambassador Anne W Patterson said that it was an important day in the relations between the two countries, which are allies in the war against terrorism. “We have seen the PAF fighting against extremists and making advancements,” she observed.
She said the US government would launch a number of welfare projects for the people of Jacobabad with particular reference to the water supply and waste management.
Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Operations) Air Marshal Muhammad Hasan said the occasion also marked to operationalise the new airbase. “It is seen as a modern airbase in the country and strength of the PAF and the air chief has directed for implementing the same on other air bases of the PAF,” he said.
He pointed out that during the induction of new F-16s, the PAF continued its other heavy commitments like the war against terror.
APP adds from Jacobabad: US Ambassador Anne W Patterson said that America’s offer of a long-term partnership with Pakistan is tangible and “it is our hope that this partnership will deliver our common goals of security and prosperity in the region and throughout the world.”
Pakistanis and Americans are working together to build a better world, “we all aspire to leave as our legacy”, she said.
She said that Pakistan and the United States share a deep and broad partnership, which is growing to encompass nearly every element of government-to-government cooperation.
Under the Strategic Dialogue established by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, she said, the two nations are working together on economic development, trade and energy, healthcare, education, science and technology and agriculture. “Our governments share a vision of partnership today which is unprecedented in the history of our bilateral relationship,” she said.
It both reflects America’s long-term commitment to Pakistan as an important ally and partner and “is a testament to the shared vision of our democratically-elected governments,” she added.
The US ambassador said an important element of Pakistan-US relationship is strong and a growing security partnership, through which the two countries are working to make this region secure, stable and peaceful.
She recalled that four years ago, the United States and the Government of Pakistan had signed a Letter of Agreement for the acquisition of 18 new F-16 aircraft by Pakistan to support this country’s counter-terrorism efforts.
“I am glad to be here today to witness the induction of the first three of these aircraft into the Pakistan Air Force in an event which begins yet another cycle of fulfilment in America’s commitments to Pakistan,” the US envoy said.
The induction of these advanced F-16s is a historic milestone for US-Pakistan relations – “both a symbolic and a tangible demonstration of our strong partnership” and the US intent to stand beside Pakistan over the long-term as an important ally and friend, Patterson said.
“Our commitment does not end with the delivery of these aircraft. The United States will continue to support the Pakistan Air Force through training and munitions procurement, and through updates to the 45 F-16s in the Pakistan Air Force’s existing fleet,” she added.
The US ambassador said that she was impressed by the skills of Pakistani pilots as they have prepared to fly the F-16 aircraft in defence of Pakistan. “But Americans know that extraordinarily powerful weapons alone cannot strengthen this or any other nation. The strength of our economies and our institutions and our people also are key elements of national power.”
Source: The News