Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 16:30 UK

US seeks boost to Pakistan F-16s

F-16 jet - generic file pic
The US insists the F-16s will be used in counter-terror operations

The US has confirmed it hopes to use $230m of its $300m military funding to Pakistan in 2008 on upgrading the country's ageing F-16 fighter jets.

A report in the New York Times said some US Congressmen were dismayed, saying the jets did not help counter-terrorism operations.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino confirmed the upgrade but insisted the jets were for counter-terrorism use.

The move is sure to anger Pakistan's key rival India, analysts say.

The New York Times reported that the timing of the move had caught legislators off guard.

Some believed it might be linked to the visit to Washington next week of new Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Times said.

Speaking later on Thursday, Ms Perino said: "The F-16s that they [Pakistan] have are used in counter-terrorism operations. We made them available to the Pakistanis and they need to be maintained."

She said Pakistan was under financial pressure because of rising food and other prices.

In 2007, US lawmakers specified that military funding to Pakistan should be for counter-terrorism or law enforcement.

The planes have been used by Pakistan in counter-terror operations, but only rarely.

The New York Times quoted state department officials as saying the upgrades would enhance the jets' capacity to hit insurgents accurately.

Air superiority

Pakistan currently operates a fleet of at least 30 F-16s, purchased from the US in the mid-1980s.

Nearly half of these are believed to have been grounded in recent years because of a lack of spare parts and the need for upgrades.

In 2005, the US agreed to sell its ally 25 of the latest versions of the fighter jet.

Washington also agreed to upgrade the older F-16s, although these would have to be paid for directly by Islamabad.

But the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan, in Islamabad, says the new plan set out by the Bush administration would now include this upgrade within its anti-terrorism aid package.

Pakistan has used the fighter jets in operations against pro-Taleban insurgents on its Afghan border.

In addition to ground attack capabilities the jets have a role in establishing air superiority, and would be Pakistan's main weapon in any possible war with arch-rival India, our correspondent says.

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