If nuclear war broke out tomorrow in South Asia, Pakistan would probably rely on foreign-supplied planes to deliver atomic bombs. Pakistan is building M-11 missiles with parts supplied by China and has tested its short-range Hatf missiles. But American F-16 jets, Chinese Q-5 bombers and French-made Mirage fighter planes remain Pakistan’s most reliable nuclear delivery platforms, according to U.S. intelligence sources.
Pakistan has 34 U.S.-made F-16s, but delivery of additional fighters has been held up because of the Pressler Amendment, which prohibits U.S. military aid or the sale of weaponry to Pakistan as long as Islamabad possesses nuclear weapons. Pakistan already has Chinese-supplied Q-5 bombers and scores of French-supplied Mirage aircraft. Islamabad may soon buy used Mirage 2000-C fighters from France. If the sale goes through, France could upgrade the aircraft by installing more advanced avionics.