The United States is all set to sell Pakistan weapons worth about one billion dollars. The Obama Administration, as per the US law, has notified the U.S. Congress about the sale, which includes sophisticated weapons and attack helicopters.
“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $952 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale,” said the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The weapons will enhance Pakistani military’s capabilities in fighting the Taliban extremists in the country’s restive northwest, especially in the semiautonomous FATA tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
“We have a very close counterterrorism relationship with Pakistan for a very – for very good reasons. There’s still a serious threat in Pakistan from terrorists who have either attacked the United States or American soldiers in Afghanistan, who have tried to plot and plan against the West, including the U.S. Obviously, the remnants of core al-Qaida are in the – mainly in the tribal areas of Pakistan. So the Pakistanis have a serious problem still, and that’s why we’re trying to help them. This is in our national security interest to do so,” said State Department acting spokesperson Marie Harf during her daily press briefing in Washington DC.
According to DSCA, Pakistan has requested possible sale of 15 AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters, 32 T-700 GE 401C Engines (30 installed and 2 spares), 1000 AGM-114 R Hellfire II Missiles in containers, 36 H-1 Technical Refresh Mission computers, 17 AN/AAQ-30 Target Sight Systems, 30 629F-23 Ultra High Frequency/Very High Frequency Communication Systems, 19 H-764 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems, 32 Helmet Mounted Display/Optimized Top Owl, 17 APX-117A Identification Friend or Foe, 17 AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems, 17 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Sets, 18 AN/APR-39C(V)2 Radar Warning Receivers, 15 Joint Mission Planning Systems, and 17 M197 20mm Gun Systems. Also included are system integration and testing, software development and integration, aircraft ferry, support equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated cost is $952 million.
The most expensive item on Pakistan’s shopping list is AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters, believed to be priced at 31 million dollars a piece. Also called “Zulu Cobra”, the twin-engine AH-1Z Viper features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system. It has improved survivability and can find targets at longer ranges and attack them with precision weapons. Its two redesigned wing stubs are longer, with each adding a wing-tip station for a missile such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Each wing has two other stations for 2.75-inch (70 mm) Hydra 70 rocket pods, or AGM-114 Hellfire quad missile launchers.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a country vital to U.S. foreign policy and national security goals in South Asia,” the DSCA statement said. This proposed sale of helicopters and weapon systems, it added, will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia.
Washington says the proposed sale will provide Pakistan with a precision strike, enhanced survivability aircraft that it can operate at high-altitudes. “By acquiring this capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces,” the statement added.
Pakistan’s military has heavily relied on its aging fleet of US-supplied Cobra attack helicopters and fighter jets in its ongoing military campaign against al-Qaeda affiliated Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in the North Waziristan region. The military claims to have so far killed more than 1,000 terrorists in its operation Zarb-e-Azb.
The State Department spokeswoman defended the decision to sell military hardware to Islamabad, insisting it will not alter the “basic military balance” in the region.
“I would say when it comes to these capabilities, they are for internal counterterrorism uses inside Pakistan – so to be very clear about that, going after terrorists inside their own country. So this is what it’s designed to do. And we obviously have many ways of monitoring how weapons we sell to any country are used in terms of end use and how we monitor that. That’s obviously something we care very deeply about,” added Ms Harf in response to a question.
The principal contractors will be Bell Helicopter, Textron in Fort Worth, Texas; General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts; The Boeing Company in Huntsville, Alabama; and Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements proposed in conjunction with this potential sale.
Implementation of the proposed sale will require multiple trips by U.S. government and contractor representatives to participate in program and technical reviews, as well as training and maintenance support in country for a period of 66 months. It will also require three contractor representatives to reside in country for a period of three years to support this program.
Pakistan is also believed to be close to finalizing a deal with the Russian Federation for the purchase of at least 20 Mil Mi-35 ‘Hind E’ heavy attack helicopters.