WASHINGTON, June 29: Pakistan intends to buy 36 F-16 fighter jets from the US and not 75 as originally planned, diplomatic sources told Dawn. The decision has been conveyed to the US government which officially notified the Congress on Wednesday of its intention to sell F-16s to Pakistan.

Once the notification is issued, the Congress has 30 days to reject the offer but if it fails to do so, the deal will be considered endorsed.

Last year, the US announced a shift in its arms sale policy to South Asia by unveiling plans to sell F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. The US Congress cancelled a sale of about two dozen F-16s to Pakistan in 1990 because of differences over Islamabad’s nuclear programme.

Pakistan has been frustrated for years in its desire to buy new F-16s for its air force, which already has 32 aircraft of older models.

Washington began to reconsider Islamabad’s request for the fighter jets after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attack when Pakistan became a key ally in the US-led war against terrorism.

Last year, US officials announced that they were willing to sell as many of the aircraft as Pakistan wanted.

Initial reports suggested that Pakistan might buy as many as 100 fighter jets but later reports reduced the numbers to as few as 25.

Before last year’s earthquake, Pakistan had planned to buy a mixed package of 75 old and new aircraft but the numbers were reconsidered after the earthquake. Now Pakistan intends to buy 18 new and 18 old aircraft, diplomatic sources said.

A US State Department official said a support package of up to 36 used and new F16s and an upgrade package for Pakistan’s current fleet of 34 aircraft would cost approximately $5 billion. This includes ammunition and logistic support.

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