General Dynamics F-16A/B Fighting Falcon for Pakistan

Last revised September 21, 2015


After the loss of the East Wing of Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the 1971 war with India, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assumed power as Prime Minister of Pakistan on December 20, 1971 and attempted to restore civilian control. He negotiated a peace settlement with India in 1972, and attempted to revitalize the economy and tried to reform the civil service. However, he was unable to bring about an effective transition to democratic institutions and his near-monopoly on decision-making and his excessive ambition antagonized almost everyone. Following a hotly-contested election in which massive fraud was alleged, the military seized control of the government on July 5, 1977 and proclaimed martial law. General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq became head of state.

The United States under President Jimmy Carter was not at all pleased by the military seizure of power in Pakistan, and issues of human rights and nuclear nonproliferation were of concern. The execution of Bhutto in April of 1979 on charges that he participated in the murder of a political opponent did not help, and the United States was generally reluctant to provide any sort of military assistance to Pakistan. However, this policy was to change when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979 in support of the pro-Soviet government in Kabul which was being hard-pressed by Mujahadeen rebel forces. President Carter suddenly offered Pakistan an aid package of 400 million dollars, which Zia spurned as being much too small.

When Ronald Reagan became president of the United States in January of 1981, American policy suddenly changed, and the level of assistance to Pakistan increased substantially. In December of 1981, the government of Pakistan signed a letter of agreement for the purchase of 40 F-16A/B fighters for the Pakistan Fiza'ya (Pakistan Air Force, or PAF). The first aircraft were accepted at Fort Worth in October of 1982. Transition training for Pakistani aircrews and ground personnel was carried out by the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB in Utah. The first two F-16As and four F-16Bs arrived in Pakistan in January of 1983. The FMS program was known as Peace Gate

The Pakistani F-16A/Bs were all from Block 15, the final version of the F-16A/B production run. They are powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan. The first unit to equip with the F-16 was No. 11 Squadron based at Sargodha. All 40 of the the Fighting Falcons had entered PAF service by mid-1986. This made it possible to establish two more squadrons, No. 9 at Sargodha and No. 14 at Kamra. No 11 Squadron operates as the OCU.

Pakistan was the second nation (after Israel) to use the F-16 in combat. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 in support of the pro-Soviet government in Kabul which was being hard-pressed by Mujahadeen rebel forces marked the start of a decade-long occupation. Mujahadeen rebels continued to harass the occupying Soviet military force as well as the forces of the Afghan regime that it was supporting. The war soon spilled over into neighboring Pakistan, with a horde of refugees fleeing to camps across the border in an attempt to escape the conflict. In addition, many of the rebels used Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to carry out forays into Afghanistan, and a steady flow of US-supplied arms were carried into Afghanistan from staging areas in Pakistan near the border. This inevitably resulted in border violations by Soviet and Afghan aircraft attempting to interdict these operations. Between May 1986 and November of 1988, PAF F-16s have shot down at least eight intruders from Afghanistan. The first three of these (one Su-22, one probable Su-22, and one An-26) were shot down by two pilots from No. 9 Squadron. Pilots of No. 14 Squadron destroyed the remaining five intruders (two Su-22s, two MiG-23s, and one Su-25). Most of these kills were by the AIM-9 Sidewinder, but at least one (a Su-22) was destroyed by cannon fire. Flight Lieutenant Khalid Mamood is credited with three of these kills. At least one F-16 was lost in these battles, this one in an encounter between two F-16s and six Afghan Air Force aircraft on April 29, 1987. However, the lost F-16 appears to have been an "own goal", having been hit by a Sidewinder fired by the other F-16. The unfortunate F-16 pilot ejected safely.

Pakistani F-16s typically carry two all-aspect AIM-9Ls on the wing tip rails along with a pair of AIM-9Ps on the outermost underwing racks. Pakistani F-16s have an important strike role, being fitted with the French-built Thompson-CSF ATLIS laser designation pod and the capability to deliver Paveway laser-guided bombs. The ATLIS was first fitted to Pakistani F-16s in January of 1986. The F-16 became the first non-European aircraft to be qualified for the ATLIS pod.

Zia was killed in a mysterious plane crash on August 17, 1988, along with the chairman of the military joint chiefs committee, the American ambassador, and 27 others. Sabotage was the likely cause. Benazir Bhutto (Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's daughter) was sworn in as prime minister on December 1, 1988.

In December of 1988, Pakistan ordered 11 additional F-16A/B Block 15 OCU (Operational Capability Upgrade) aircraft, and in September of 1989, plans were announced for Pakistan to acquire 60 more F-16A/Bs. A down payment of $685 M was received, and work on the planes began.

The F-16 deal got unwound because Pakistan got itself involved in a controversy with the United States over its suspected nuclear weapons capability. India had exploded an underground nuclear device on May 18, 1974, and Pakistani prime minister Bhutto pledged at the time that his country would match that development even if his people had to "eat grass" to cover the cost. Zia somewhat reluctantly continued the nuclear development program after he seized power, even though he did make several attempts to reach some sort of arms limitation agreement with India. However, a number of United States laws and amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 applied to Pakistan and its program of nuclear weapons development. The Symington Amendment of 1976 required that economic assistance be terminated to any country that imported uranium enrichment technology. The Glenn Amendment of 1977 similarly called for an end to aid to countries that imported reprocessing technology, which Pakistan had done from France. United States economic assistance, except for food aid, was terminated under the Symington Amendment in April 1979. In 1985 the Solarz Amendment was added to prohibit aid to countries that attempt to import nuclear commodities from the United States. In the same year, the Pressler Amendment was passed, referring specifically to Pakistan. This amendment stated specifically that if Pakistan actually possessed a nuclear device, aid would have to be suspended.

Intelligence information reaching US authorities indicated that Pakistan was actively working on a nuclear bomb, had received a design for a bomb from China, had tested a nuclear trigger, and was actively producing weapons-grade uranium. The F-16As of Nos 9 and 11 Squadrons at Sargodha have allegedly been modified with the means of carrying and delivering a Pakistani nuclear weapon. Invoking the Pressler amendment, the United States government announced on October 6, 1990 that it had embargoed further arms deliveries to Pakistan. A total of 71 F-16s on order were affected by the embargo.

While the arguments between the Pakistani and American governments went back and forth, the planes continued to roll off the production lines at Fort Worth, but they were immediately placed in storage at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona. By the end of 1994, 28 of these planes had been built and placed in storage. A stop-work order prevented the remaining 43 planes on the contract from being started.

Pakistan has already paid $685 million on the contract, and insisted on either having the planes it ordered delivered or getting its money back. A compromise was offered in March of 1995 allowing the delivery of some of the embargoed planes. Under the compromise, the 28 F-16s already built would be allowed to be delivered to Pakistan, plus a further ten to equal the value of the money already paid. Pakistan's Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (who had been dismissed from office by the Pakistani president in 1990 but had been re-elected in October of 1993) visited Washington in an attempt to persuade President Bill Clinton to rescind the embargo against Pakistan, but the US government remained steadfast.

In late May of 1995, Senator Larry Pressler (the original author of the embargo legislation) proposed as a compromise that 17 of the 28 embargoed planes be transferred to Taiwan, with the remaining 11 going to the Philippines. Pakistan would then be reimbursed for the undelivered planes using proceeds from the sale. However, these planes were by that time essentially second-hand aircraft which had been in storage for some time, and their sale would be unlikely to raise the $658 million originally paid by Pakistan. Taiwan already had 150 more-advanced later-model F-16s on order and is unlikely to want additional older models. In any case, the Chinese government was very unhappy about Taiwan obtaining still more F-16s. However, the offer of F-16s to the Philippines may be attractive, since it is still operating elderly F-5Es.

An agreement was announced in late 1999 in which the 28 embargoed planes would be leased to New Zealand. As compensation, 463.7 million dollars will be returned to Pakistan. However, this deal fell through in March of 2000 when New Zealand decided that they could not afford these aircraft. The Pakistani planes still languished in the Arizona desert.

In May of 1998, India and Pakistan carried out eleven nuclear tests, confirming their long-suspected potential in this area. Since India and Pakistan have already fought three separate wars with each other since partition--two over Kashmir and one over East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)--there is a danger that any future conflict could result in a nuclear exchange between these nations and millions of deaths.

Pakistani F-16s were assigned USAF serial numbers for record-keeping purposes. PAF F-16s carry a three-digit PAF serial number on their noses, the F-16As being assigned numbers in sequence beginning with 701, and the F-16Bs being assigned numbers beginning with 601. These numbers are prefixed by two digits on the tail, these prefixes (I think) indicating the year of service entry.

After a decade in storage, some of the embargoed Pakistani F-16s were returned to flight status and given to the USAF and US Navy. The USAF will use them as flight test and training aircraft, replacing some very old F-16s. Since they had been flown directly into storage as soon as they rolled off the production line, they have very low service times. The Navy will use its F-16s for agressor training at NAS Fallon, Nevada.

Since May of 2009, the Pakistan Air Force has used their F-16s to support operations in Northwest Pakistan against Taliban insurgents. There have been repeated episodes of tensions with India, and PAF F-16s patrolled the Indian border during th Kargil Conflict of 1999 and during the 2008 tension with India over the Mumbai terriorist attacks.

The arms embargo against Pakistan was eventually removed, and in November of 2006 Pakistan ordered 18 new-build F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft, plus 60 kits for Mid-Life Updates. In December 2009 the first F-16D Block 52 rolled out for the Pakistan AF, and the first batch arrived in Pakistan in May of 2010. 17 F-16C/D aircraft had been delivered to Pakistan by the end of December 2010. In addition, Pakistan ordered a batch of used F-16s from Jordan, the first batch of 5 arriving in April of 2014.

Serials of Pakistani F-16s:

81-0899/0900		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15E Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (82-701/702)
81-0901/0902		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15M Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (82-703, 84-704)
81-0903			General Dynamics F-16A Block 15N Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (84-705)
81-0904/0906		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15P Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (84-706/708)
81-0907/0911		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15Q Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (84-709/713)
81-0912/0915		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15R Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (84-714/717)
81-0916/0920		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15S Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (84-718/720,
				85-721,722)
81-0921/0922		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15T Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (85-723/724)
81-0923/0926		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15U Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (85-725/728)
81-0927/0930		Cancelled order for F-16As to Pakistan.
				Replaced by an order for "new" F-16Bs.
81-0931/0932		General Dynamics F-16B Block 15D Fighting Falcon 
				built for export to Pakistan (81-601/602)
81-0933/0934		General Dynamics F-16B Block 15E Fighting Falcon 
				built for export to Pakistan (81-603/604)
81-0935/0936		General Dynamics F-16B Block 15M Fighting Falcon 
				built for export to Pakistan (83-605,84-606)
81-0937/0938		General Dynamics F-16B Block 15N Fighting Falcon 
				built for export to Pakistan (84-607/608)
81-1504			General Dynamics F-16B Block 15U Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (85-609)
81-1505/1507		General Dynamics F-16B Block 15V Fighting Falcon
				built for export to Pakistan (85-610/612)
90-0942/0947		General Dynamics F-16A Block 15AM OCU Fighting Falcon
				sold to Pakistan as 91-729,92-730/734
				All are embargoed at MASDC since 1992.
90-0948/0952		General Dynamics F-16B Block 15AM OCU Fighting Falcon
				sold to Pakistan as 91-613, 92-614/617
				All are embargoed at MASDC since 1992.

92-404/408		Lockheed F-16A Block 15AQ OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 92-735/92-738, 93-739
				404 embargoed at AMARC Jun 23, 1993 as FG0010.
				405 embargoed at AMARC Jul 15, 1993 as FG0011.
				406 embargoed at AMARC Sept 21, 1993 as FG0034.
				407 embargoed at AMARC Sept 28, 1993 as FG0036.
				408 embargoed at AMARC Sept 29, 1993 as FG0037.
				These planes leased to New Zealand in 1999
92-409/410		Lockheed F-16A Block 15AR OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 93-740/93-741
				409 embargoed at AMARC Dec 20, 1993 as FG0039.
				410 embargoed at AMARC Dec 21, 1993 as FG0040.
				These planes leased to New Zealand in 1999.
92-411/413		Lockheed F-16A Block 15AV OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 9.-742/9.-744
				Production cancelled.
92-414/418		Lockheed F-16A Block 15AW OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 9.-745/9.-749
				Production cancelled.
92-419/423		Lockheed F-16A Block 15AX OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 9.-750/9.-754
				Production cancelled
92-424/428		Lockheed F-16A Block 15AY OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 9.-755/9.-759
				Production cancelled
92-429/436		Lockheed F-16A Block 15AZ OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 9.-760/9.-767
				Production cancelled
92-437/445		Lockheed F-16A Block 15BA OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 9.-768/9.-776
				Production cancelled.
92-446/451		Lockheed F-16A Block 15BB OCU Fighting Falcon
				For Pakistan as 9.-777/9.-782
				Production cancelled.
92-452			Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16B Block 15AQ OCU
				Fighting Falcon
				for Pakistan as 92-618
				Embargoed at AMARC Aug 25, 1993 as FG0026.
				Leased to New Zealand in 1999.
92-453/455		Lockheed F-16B Block 15AR OCU Fighting Falcon
				for Pakistan as 93-619, 93-620,621
				453 embargoed at AMARC Dec 2, 1993 as FG0038
				454 embargoed at AMARC Mar 9, 1994 as FG0101
				455 embargoed at AMARC Mar 9, 1994 as FG0102
92-456/457		Lockheed F-16B Block 15AS OCU Fighting Falcon
				for Pakistan as 9.-622/9.-623
				456 embargoed at AMARC July 20, 1994 as FG0183.
				457 embargoed at AMARC Aug 4, 1994 as FG0202.
				Leased to New Zealand in 1999.
92-458/463		Lockheed F-16B Block 15AU OCU Fighting Falcon
				for Pakistan as 9.-624/9.-629
				458 embargoed at AMARC Oct 4, 1994 as FG0239
				459 embargoed at AMARC Nov 2, 1994 as FG0271.
				460 embargoed at AMARC Nov 2, 1994 as FG0270.
				461 embargoed at AMARC Dec 7, 1994 as FG0298.
				462 and 463 were cancelled.
				These planes were leased to New Zealand in 1999.
07-0001/0012            Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52 Fighting Falcon
                               MSN JE-1/12. To Pakistan AF as 10901/10912 under Peace Drive in 2010.
07-0013/0018            Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 52 Fighting Falcon
                               MSN JF-1/6. To Pakistan AF as 10801/10806 under Peace Drive in 2010.


Sources:


  1. Combat Aircraft F-16, Doug Richardson, Crescent, 1992.

  2. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  3. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  4. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  5. F-16 Fighting Falcon--A Major Review of the West's Universal Warplane, Robert F. Dorr, World Airpower Journal, Spring 1991.

  6. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery, 1989.

  7. Modern Military Aircraft--F-16 Viper, Lou Drendel, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1992.

  8. Lockheed F-16 Variants, Part 1, World Airpower Journal, Volume 21, Summer 1995.

  9. Pakistani Border Battles, Lindsay Peacock, World Airpower Journal, Volume 10, Autumn 1992.

  10. Modern Military Aircraft--F-16 Viper, Lou Drendel, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1992.

  11. Pakistan Air Force, World Airpower Journal, Volume 6, 1991.

  12. Airscene Headlines, Air International, August 1995.

  13. Lockheed Martin F-16 Operators: Part 2, Peter R. Foster, World Airpower Journal, Volume 24, Spring 1996.

  14. US Library of Congress Country Study -- Pakistan

  15. Airscene Headlines, Air International, March 2003.

  16. General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_F-16_Fighting_Falcon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_F-16_Fighting_Falcon_operators