MUSHAF BASE, July 10: The United States on Tuesday started the long-awaited delivery of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan when two of the `Fighter Falcons’ were handed over to the Pakistan Air Force.

The handing over ceremony was held at the PAF base near Sargodha where two F-16s landed after being directly flown from the US.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Peterson and a large number of senior officers of the PAF attended the ceremony.

Commander of Central Air Command of US Air Force Lt-Gen Gary L. North, along with a colleague, flew the aircraft and reached here after a continuous flight of over eight hours across the Atlantic.

The handing over marked the beginning of the programme for the delivery of the fleet of a dozen aircraft to Pakistan. These aircraft were manufactured in 1990s and their delivery to Pakistan was stopped following imposition of the Pressler Amendment.

Later, these were given to the US air force and navy.

Talking to APP, Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed said that the remaining 10 aircraft would be given to Pakistan in batches till the middle of next year.

“These are exceptionally used aircraft and are being given to us at very nominal prices,” he said.

He said the delivery of the aircraft to Pakistan was only possible after hectic negotiations with the US Air Force.

In addition to these aircraft, he said, efforts were in hand to get 16 more aircraft which were in the use of US Navy and these were part of the 28 aircraft for which Pakistan had made the payment.

In the meantime, he said, offers had been made by the US Administration to get the similar number of aircraft being used by the US Navy from the US National Guards. —APP

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