The US reportedly offered to sell Pakistan over half a dozen naval Hawkeye-2000 surveillance aircraft during a briefing with Pakistani defense officials on board the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Monday.
Pakistani defense officials met with senior US Navy officials on the Nimitz, which is anchored some 170km off the Karachi coast.
The E-2C Hawkeye 2000 surveillance aircraft is part of Pakistan’s list of military equipment it hopes to purchase from the US.
Two Hawkeye aircraft were also flown to Pakistan’s naval station in Karachi, PNS Mehran, for a special demonstration.
Over the weekend, the commander of the USS Nimitz, Rear Admiral Peter H Daley, held a briefing on board the nuclear-powered carrier about the features of the spy aircraft for the delegation of Pakistan defense officials led by Defense Secretary General Tariq Wasim Ghazi, a retired general.
Equipped with the latest communication capacities, the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 is used to maintain effective contacts between land, air, and naval forces.
Pakistani officials also inspected F-18 jets during the visit.
Washington’s offer to sell the new surveillance aircraft to Pakistan follows serious concerns raised by Pakistani leaders over a ten-year India-US defense pact signed during a recent visit by Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee to the US.
Pakistan believes that India’s acquisition of Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) air defense missile systems from the US could upset the regional balance of power and spur an arms race.
A senior Pakistani air force official told ISN Security Watch on Tuesday that Washington had offered Pakistan the same spy planes in the mid-1980s, but that “after flight tests and assessing our specific defense needs in the wake of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, we decided against buying the system”.
However, the chief of the Pakistani air force, Marshal Saadat Kaleem, said he now supports the acquisition of mid-sized, early-warning and control aircraft. In an earlier talk with reporters, he said he hoped Washington would be willing to provide Islamabad with as many as ten of the aircraft.
Local defense analysts believe the US could be more amenable to selling the aircraft to Pakistan, as they are largely defensive in nature.
Pakistani air force officials said Islamabad would seek the latest version of the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 as well as air-to-air refueling platforms.
So far, US officials have not commented on Pakistan’s request for enhanced capabilities.