Thursday, June 01, 2006

US plans "significant" Pakistan missile sale

US plans "significant" Pakistan missile sale
By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration said Wednesday it was planning to let Pakistan buy advanced Boeing Co. Harpoon anti-ship missiles and related equipment valued at up to $370 million in "a significant upgrade" of the Asian nation's existing weapons systems.

Of the total "Block II" Harpoon missiles sought by Pakistan, 50 would be for launch from submarines, 50 from surface ships and 30 by air, the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice to Congress required by law.

The equipment would provide "a significant upgrade to Pakistan's existing systems and allow for improved target acquisition," said the agency, which handles U.S. government-to-government weapons sales.

The notice does not mean that a sale has been concluded. In addition, Congress can interfere.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be a key ally in the global war on terrorism," the agency added.

Chicago-based Boeing describes the advanced Harpoon as capable of knocking out coastal defenses, surface-to-air missile sites and exposed aircraft as well as ships in port. It uses a satellite-aided inertial navigation system.

The upgraded targeting capability "significantly reduces the risk of hitting noncombatant targets, thus improving Pakistan's naval operational flexibility," the agency told Congress.

Pakistan, which has fought three wars with neighboring India since partition of British India in 1947, plans to use the Harpoon on its Lockheed Martin Corp. P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft, surface ships and submarines, the agency said.

The Bush administration last June signed a 10-year defense pact with India outlining expanded two-way defense trade, missile-defense cooperation plans and increased opportunities for technology transfers and weapons co-production.

Last year, Pentagon officials gave India a classified briefing on Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) short-range missile defense systems built by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed and Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Massachusetts.