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US unveils first F-16 fighter aircraft for Pakistan

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WASHINGTON (PTI): The US Wednesday unveiled the first of the 18 new F-16 fighter aircraft being produced for Islamabad even as the Pakistan Army has raised serious concern over the conditions imposed for military aid through the Kerry-Lugar bill.

Chief of Air Staff of Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Rao Quamar Suleman, accepted the first F-16 Block 52 aircraft on behalf of the country at an event at the Forth Worth facility of manufacturer Lockheed Martin, also attended by Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani.

Speaking on the occasion, Suleman said the roll out shows that the programme is "on track" despite it experiencing many ups and downs.

The first batch of F-16 aircraft is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan in June next year. The delivery of all 18 jets is planned to be completed by December 2010.

The aircraft order is designated as "Peace Drive I," continuing a long tradition of naming F-16 international sales programmes with the word Peace, Lockheed Martin said in a media release.

The programme raises the total number of F-16s ordered by Pakistan to 54. The Pakistan Air Force received its first F-16, in the Block 15 F-16A/B configuration, in 1982.

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