In order to realize its recent pledge to Pakistan to accelerate delivery of sophisticated F16 jets, the United States received the cooperation of several European allies involved in the coproduction of the fighter plane.
The episode, which drew publicly stated support from the Netherlands and Belgium and a private assurance from Denmark, represents a relatively small but noteworthy counterpoint to the general differences that have been straining U.S.-European relations.
Having promised to deliver six of 40 jets to Pakistan within a year, the United States in late August asked the Europeans to slow up scheduled receipt of the coveted aircraft for their air forces in order to take the pressure off America's own production and military schedules.
Agreeing to the U.S. request appears to have come rather easily for most of the allies, chiefly because they were ahead of their own schedules and could accept a lapse without upsetting their military modernization programs.
Moreover, Pakistan's purchase of the F16s serves the European aim of helping strategically located developing countries build up their own defenses, thus sparing NATO the controversial challenge of having to set up security shields itself against the Soviets in areas outside Europe.
The plane is being manufactured with considerable European involvement under a five-nation consortium arrangement -- the United States, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway -- in which the Europeans contribute about 40 percent of the jet's procurement value and are entitled in turn to receive a certain number of aircraft.
The program, which began formally in 1975, has turned into a model joint-production effort, praised by the European partners both for producing a superior plane and for staying under the initially estimated cost of the plane.
In answer to the United States, both Belgium and Holland have each agreed to switch three planes that had been under assembly in their countries and intended for their own air forces to the U.S. Air Force instead. This will allow the United States to send planes put together at its Ft. Worth, Tex., plant to Pakistan.
To ensure that the Europeans will not give the impression that they are supplying the jets to Pakistan, the United States issued a formal assurance that the F16s sold to the government of Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq will be from those made in the United States.
But U.S. and European military experts acknowledge that some components of the planes that Pakistan will be receiving are bound to contain European parts due to the mingling of U.S. and European parts along the U.S. F16 production lines.
Denmark has also told Washington it would supply one or two planes if necessary, according to Danish sources, but prefers not to discuss the arrangement publicly.
Norway, which just held national elections and whose political attitude toward Southeast Asia remains somewhat confused, rejected the U.S. request and insisted on holding to its planned delivery schedule.
The U.S. Air Force is itself still not fully equipped with the highly sought-after planes, which have been supplied so far only to some Europeans and to Israel and promised to Egypt.
While other nations are said to be close to concluding purchases of the fighters, U.S. officials in The Hague and Brussels say they have not received instructions to discuss other possible requests for delays with the Europeans. With the Pakistan sale, the maneuvering room in the program's scheduling appears to have been used up for now.