The U.S. Navy has proposed selling eight airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft to Pakistan, reversing restrictions on selling advanced radar planes to Islamabad.
One proposal would send eight new Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye 2000s plus support equipment for an estimated $1.6 billion; a second option costing about half as much would include used aircraft upgraded to the advanced configuration, Northrop officials said.
The U.S. Navy proposal — supported at the policy level by the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and other relevant government agencies — is yet another manifestation of Washington’s intensifying courtship of Pakistan, which is viewed by the Bush administration as a key ally in its global fight against terror.
On Nov. 16, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified the U.S. Congress of a possible $970 million sale to Pakistan of eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. According to the notification, the proposed sale — not yet concluded with Pakistani authorities — “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for economic progress in South Asia and the global war on terrorism.”
Also proposed for sale to Pakistan, according to separate Nov. 16 congressional notifications, are 2,000 Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) 2A anti-armor guided missiles, valued at $82 million; and an estimated $155 million package of Phalanx close-in weapon systems.
If Pakistan agrees to these and other potential arms sales, the deals likely would be funded in part through a $3 billion, five-year military and economic aid package that the White House is trying to push through Congress as part of the 2005 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.
Northrop executives said they hoped the most recent proposal for the E-2 Hawkeye 2000 — an advanced system they say will eventually allow Pakistan to link up to U.S. Navy network-centric operations — is compelling enough to persuade Islamabad to forsake advanced negotiations for a Swedish AEW&C system based on the Saab 2000 aircraft and the Erieye radar and sensor suite.
They said Pakistan requested the Hawkeyes in early 2003 to satisfy an urgent AEW&C requirement, but that U.S. government policy at the time had barred their export to Pakistan. So Pakistan launched discussions with Sweden; European industry sources said negotiations had moved into advanced stages.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we did not end up coming into this program too late, since we believe the Hawkeye aircraft and the network-centric operational capability is something nobody else can offer,” said David Murray, Northrop Grumman’s director of international programs for AEW.
Working with the U.S. Navy, Northrop presented detailed proposals with price and programmatic data to Pakistani military officials in Islamabad last month, Murray said. The package is being presented as two different programs — each containing four aircraft — for the Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistan Navy, with the Air Force taking the lead in negotiations.
“We just responded to a [price and availability] request for a program involving both the Navy and the Air Force. We had our team in there last month doing a tactical brief for the Pakistan Air Force and now they have in front of them an offer from the U.S. government,” Murray said. “We think the reason they went down the Erieye path was because they were concerned about not being able to get the Hawkeye from the U.S. government. But now we’re hopeful that Hawkeye still represents the preferred path for the Pakistani services.”
Defense officials at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington declined to discuss the proposed deal or other potential arms packages. A public affairs official at the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency declined to comment on the proposed Hawkeye bid.
“We do not engage in discussions or speculation of potential sales of major defense items or services to friendly countries before formal Congressional notification,” the official said.
The Hawkeye offer, plus last month’s congressional notifications of up to $1.2 billion in proposed U.S. arms deals, puts meat on the bones of a process for restoring U.S.-Pakistani defense trade ties that started just 11 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.
With Presidential Determination No. 2001-28, the White House waived three separate sanctions on the books imposed on Pakistan as a result of its development and testing, in 1998, of nuclear weapons. Key among the sanctions waived by Bush, the son, was the 1985 Pressler Amendment that former President George Bush, the father, triggered in 1990 when he could not assure Congress that Pakistan was not developing nuclear weapons.
Those sanctions blocked delivery of 28 F-16 fighters that were already built and paid for by Pakistan, part of a 71-aircraft package that Islamabad concluded with the Pentagon in 1988 and 1989.
In October 2001, the White House waived the remaining prohibitions on military sales and economic assistance to Pakistan, which were imposed in 1999 after Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s top Army officer, grabbed the powers of the presidency.
Since then, the Bush administration has approved several arms agreements with Pakistan, including helicopters, cargo aircraft, night-vision equipment, radios and radar systems, according to Wade Boese, research director for the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
Boese noted that since June, when Pakistan was declared a major non-NATO ally, Islamabad has received even greater opportunities to acquire excess U.S. military equipment, including used U.S. Navy E-2Cs. And while the U.S. government has not yet approved Pakistan’s renewed requests for F-16s, Boese said he is concerned those planes could join the growing list of U.S. weaponry destined for Islamabad.
“Proliferators and others seeking to defy U.S. and international non-proliferation norms are sure to be encouraged by the U.S. embrace of Pakistan and Washington’s willingness to enter into advanced arms sales just a few short years after they’ve come out of the nuclear closet,” Boese said. “The message here is that the punishment for proliferators is short-lived, and that U.S. nonproliferation policies lack credibility.”
Boese urged the U.S. government to move slowly and cautiously in its defense-related dealings with Pakistan and India, to prevent a U.S.-fueled arms race on the precarious Asian subcontinent.
“Washington is trying to endear itself to both India and Pakistan, and we’re likely to arrive very quickly to a situation where the United States is trying to market weapons to both sides of a dangerous conflict,” he said.
Boese said he doubts that the Hawkeyes and the P-3s, built to fight the Soviet Navy, are ideally suited to tracking terrorists.
“And one must remember that the P-3s, the E-2Cs, the F-16s and other armaments likely to be proposed in the future will probably outlast the war on terror, just like our weapons to the mujahadeen outlasted the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,” he said.
“So in the long term, you have to ask yourself what these weapons will be used for down the road, and who may inherit control of these weapon systems.”