The receipt of the first batch of five ex-Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s by the PAF is significant development for the PAF and gives it a much needed boost in its capabilities. The aircraft have joined No.19 Squadron ‘Sherdils’ (Lion Heart) that relinquish their Chengdu F-7P/FT-7 at PAF Air Base Mushaf Sargodha, which they flew for 24 years. This is the longest the squadron has ever flown a particular type, having previously flown Shenyang F-6 and North American F-86F Sabre fighters respectively. The induction of the F-16s therefore continues the long process of replacing the PAF’s obsolete F-7P fleet.
Much of the PAF’s inventory still comprises of the F-7P (which is still the most numerous type in service), and variants of the Mirage III/V. Though the latter may have at least some capability as strike aircraft, the F-7Ps are now no longer viable even in the South Asian military environment. Their retirement indicates the PAF still intends to replace its F-7Ps as soon as it is able to do so, and it is to be expected that any further F-16s acquired will replace more F-7Ps in PAF service.
Though old (having been built for the USAF in the early 1980s, before being upgraded and transferred to Jordan where they served with No.2 Squadron), the aircraft have been rebuilt and upgraded under the Mid-Life Upgrade Programme, and should be good to see service for another 20 years. In terms of avionics they are comparable to the F-16 Block 52 variants, and should be able to operate with the rest of the PAF’s F-16 inventory without issue. Another eight aircraft should soon be delivered, bringing the total number of aircraft in this transfer to the allocated 13. The PAF has approximately doubled the number of F-16s in service since 2005, and once this transfer is complete should have 76 in service. The PAF has the infrastructure in place to operate a fleet of approximately one hundred F-16s however, and further surplus F-16 acquisitions are to be expected.
The aircraft in question have been provided via the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) process via Jordan, which is an important conduit for the transfer of US defense equipment to Pakistan, with additional AH-1F Cobra helicopter gunships having also been previously supplied via this method. It remains a way of overcoming certain obstacles that would otherwise hinder the transfer of surplus US defense equipment to Pakistan, and is a sign of the continuing strong fraternal bond between Jordan and Pakistan, and the strong working relationship with the US military.
PAF is trying its level best to replace its large inventory of Chinese F-7 and French Mirage III/V fighter aircrafts. With financial constrains it has done a very good job in procuring aircrafts. With USA sponsored EDA there is good possibility that PAF might receive more surplus USAF F-16. PAF still has 15 MLU kits available.
After the completion delivery of 13 Ex-Jordanian inventories of F-16s in PAF will be as follows:
58 A/B Block 15 MLU assigned to Squadron No. 9, 11 & 19 based at Mushaf (OPSR) air base, Sargodha.
18 C/D Block 52+ assigned to Squadron No. 5 based at Shahbaz (OPJA) air base, Jacobabad.