So Why are we selling F-16s to Pakistan?

Here’s Fred Kaplan’s article from Slate:

This seems like a really bad idea to me, for the reasons Kaplan outlines (it will accelerate the Pakistan/India arms race, Pakistan is a nuclear power with a huge and potentially dangerous Islamic-extremist faction, etc).

The reasons given by Condi Rice, rewarding Pakistan for its help in the war on terror and engaging the Musharif government, seem very weak to me. As to engaging Musharif to promote democracy, Musharif keeps pushing off elections and as Kaplan points out, whats to stop him from using the delay of elections as a continuing tactic to further leverage us for more money, weapons, etc down the road? As to rewarding Musharif for his help vs Al Qaeda, wouldnt it make more sense to help him with something like the removal of US farm subsidies, open markets or something a little less explosive than a large order of high tech warplanes?

Kaplan points out an alternate reason: pork for the defense industry.

I dunno, but this seems pretty damn dumb to me, not just from a squishy bleeding heart perspective but also from hard nosed real-politik. I mean, why give high tech weapons to a country with one of the largest populations of Islamic extremists in the world? That seems idiotic to me.

Dan, what specifically are you concerend about? I am not too worried about the F-16s falling into the hands of Islamic extremists. The thing about a weapons system like this is that you need parts and training to keep it operational. Think about the F-14 we sold to Iran. When the the Shah fell, they were never really a threat to the West, aside from the hostage crisis. Those war planes also didn’t seem to help their cause in regional conflicts. I don’t know particualrs about the Iraq/Iran war, but I have a sense that there was no real air warfare.

On the other hand, I don’t think it was a great idea. It’s just going to intensify the ongoing arms race with India. You would think there would have been some other perk we could have offered them.

Arms race with India is a big and fairly ugly issue. Also I’m worried about Islamic extremists getting their hands on high tech weapons not through a broad-based popular uprising a’la Iran but I’m more concerned about a coup or perhaps a military mutiny where fanatical elements of the military or intelligence aparatus get their hands on nukes, high tech weapons etc. Since Pakistan already has nukes, the F-16s don’t add that much to the threat. But its still a dumb idea - why pour gas on fire?

F-16s aren’t all that great, you know.

When Poland was upgrading its air force a year back, they did tests with the Grippen and Rafale, both of which easily outpaced the F-16. The reason they settled for the F-16 is because the US kept pushing it, and Poland was desperate for compatibility with NATO comms.

Also, the US has been pushing A/B model F-16s on countries it wouldn’t even talk to about selling F-16s a few years ago - like the former eastern bloc, South America, etc. The Air Force completely wants to get rid of these (C/Ds are expected to go on the block by the end of the decade.) They can’t even carry AMRAAMs, just sidewinders.

They actually bought and paid for these 20 years ago. The U.S. just refused to effect delivery until now.

This was one of the demands made by the terrorist group that murdered Daniel Pearl.

You must have missed the part where then President Clinton refunded the money to Pakistan in December of 1998.

Because we’re morons, and don’t learn that making short-sided decisions like this cozying up to undemocratic and unstable regimes/groups bites us in the end. Hell, just in the region, we have previous suck-ups to Iran & Afghanistan’s rebels turning out horribly. Throw in that it’s just further going to get escalation from India - who naturally should be our fucking allies there, what with the "whole “mostly a pluralistic democracy & lots of economic ties” thing - and I honestly don’t get it

Do we really need his army’s half-hearted cooperation & repeated betrayals of us on Al Qaeda so badly? Really want to excuse that Khan guy giving nukes to all the crackpots of the earth? We’re not even getting anything for our short-sidedness.

You must have missed the part where then President Clinton refunded the money to Pakistan in December of 1998.[/quote]

You sure about that? CNN got the story wrong yesterday then, since they said thhe Pakistani’s had never been repaid, despite asking for delivery or repayment.

We’re throwing a bone that has immense prestige value to Musharraf, but that doesn’t change the balance of power one bit.

India has a billion people. If they wanted to, they could steam roller the puny Pakistani military. A few F-16s will not have any effect at all.


Well, I don’t think that’s correct. Aside from already trying a couple of times previously, and failing, there’s the little matter of Pakistan’s nukes. But you’re right that it doesn’t affect the balance of power at all.

Well, it sure pisses India off. There’s one effect.

Isnt it also a knock back against india for their purchase of Mig29s, Su27s and part of the Russian Navy ?

I dont think a bunch of outdated fighters are really a threat to the western world any more than they’d be a danger to india’s more modernised airforce. I guess they’ll end up dropping bombs on horse mounted tribes in the north.

What do you mean? Russia’s not enemy anymore; so why would we “retaliate”?

India has a billion people. If they wanted to, they could steam roller the puny Pakistani military. A few F-16s will not have any effect at all.

According to the Beeb, the US is selling F-16s to India as well.

Washington is reported to have offered Delhi F-16s as well as the more advanced F-18 Hornet combat jets

Actually the F-16’s Pakistan will be buying will not be the old A/B models impounded in 1990 (which i believe are now being used by the USN for training). Most likely Pakistan will go for around 70 Block 52 F-16’s together with BVR missiles (maybe JDAM as well), as well as upgrading the current F-16 fleet with MLU, possibly some used fighters will also be acquired and upgraded.

The Pakistani Air force is well respected throughout the world, having comprehensively outscored the numerically superior Indian air force in both the 1965 and 1971 wars. PAF pilots flying on deputation to Arab airforces also scored several kills againist Israeli pilots without loss during Arab-Israeli wars. However, the sanctions imposed by the US in 1990, coupled Indias acquirement of advanced planes such as the SU-30 MKI had created a large technological gap between the two nations. The F-16 deal, along with currently proposed deals for American and Swedish AWACS, and the future induction of the joint Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 fighter with SD-10 BVR missiles, should restore enough parity for the Pakistani air force to be able to defend their air space from Indian attack.

It’s unlikely that India will take up the option of fighters from the USA, given the close relationship they have with Russia, not to mention the logistical problems of inducting a new fighter into an airforce already crowded with Russian, French and British planes.

India has a billion people. If they wanted to, they could steam roller the puny Pakistani military. A few F-16s will not have any effect at all

Highly unlikely. Despite 50 years and 4 wars, Indian has failed to capture the small part of Pakistani Kashmir it claims, let alone the rest of the nation, even without nuclear weapons in the equation.

The overall balance of power is still tilted heavily in India’s favour due to numerical superiority. This sale will simply fill the technological gap which had emerged in the Pakistani airforce, and thus allow Pakistan to adequately defend their skies from foreign attack. This in turn will reduce any chance the Pakistan would need to use their ‘last resort’ weapons, and as such will be a positive step in defusing the nuclear flashpoint in South Asia.

You make it sound so reasonable and sound, and yet I have a vague feeling that the world will be a more dangerous place after the deal.

Because pakistan decided to co-operate to the best of their ability, and provide valuable intel. They also made it a 2 front war instead of a three front war. Considering resources are stretched to the limit, I’d say it’s a bargain.

Besides, do you think a pakistani pilot could fly better than a pilot who has been through red flag? Add to that drones, AWACS, and tactical combat information networks, it wouldn’t even be fair.

Wow, the US is selling F-18s to India? That’s different. Those have been usually reserved for close-knit allies.

I’m starting to think that this is less a knock on India than checking the Russians.

Incidentally, in mock combat the Russian-equipped Indians demolished an American force of F-15s, though the F-15s were lacking their usual AWACS support in the scenario.