In 2016, Pakistan walked out of a deal to procure 8 U.S.-made F-16 Block-52 fighters deal valued at $699 million after US administration refused to fund the deal, since then Pakistan’s plan to modernize and acquire modern weapons for its F-16 fleet has just gotten more difficult, as US administration has been choking Pakistan’s plans to acquire surplus F-16 from other countries.

Without the written consent of the United States, the transfer of US-made weapons in this case F-16s, to a third country like Pakistan is near impossible even though surplus F-16s are popping up more now since many countries are acquiring F-35s and have plans to sell off their F-16 fleet gradually.

Deathnail for the Pakistani F-16 fleet came when US-funded F-16s were used in the recent air skirmish with India even though Pakistan initially denied usage of F-16s but had to acknowledge their usage after being confronted with evidence, much to the annoyance of the US administration.

Pakistan tried to plead with the US administration that the latest Block-52 variants that were US-funded and given exclusively for counter-terrorism purposes for its cooperation in the Afghan war were not used in these operations but that didn’t find many takers in State-Department which is very keen to get India on its side for a possible confrontation with China and Russia.

Till now, State Department has tuned down Pakistan’s request for the latest AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and is not even keen to resupply fresh stock of the AIM-120 C5 AMRAAM that was used by Pakistan to shot down Indian Mig-21.

Out of 75 F-16s that are operated by Pakistan 57 are older Block-15 MLUs that have reached the end of their technical service with no further upgrade roadmap in the pipeline. Beyond 2040, it will be an uphill task for Pakistan to maintain the F-16 fleet beyond the 18 Block-52 variants.

The recent acquisition of J-10CE from China hints at the possibility of a shift that is happening towards Chinese fighter jets that will ultimately replace the F-16 fleet in Pakistan but eventually, Pakistan will decide either to procure Turkish 5th Gen fighter with Western technology or go for Chinese offering of the same class but with a much cheaper price tag.

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