But Congress isn't so sure the Pakistani government can be trusted to use the planes against the tribal militants thought to be responsible for violence in Pakistan as well as in neighboring Afghanistan.
Members of Congress want to know why Pakistan would need a jet fighter that has "air-to-air" fighter capability when all the Pakistanis really need to fight militants from the air is a plane or helicopter with "air-to-ground" or "close air support" capabilities to support its efforts against militants on the ground.
Bush administration officials attempted to reassure lawmakers that the planes were actually being used for their intended purpose during a hearing on Capitol Hill last month as they attempted to get the proposed sales back on track.
"I don't know that it helps air-to-air with an entity such as Al Qaeda unless I'm missing something where they're in the air," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D) of New York, who chaired the hearing. "Do we have flying Al Qaedas?"
The plan includes the sale of about 18 new F-16s, as well as the sale of older-model American F-16s the US military isn't using. Another program would refurbish some of the Pakistani Air Force's planes with more current technology and capability. But the bulk of the planes wouldn't be in the hands of the Pakistanis until the end of 2010, a Defense official says.
The concern over the use of the planes illustrates broader issues about the role Pakistan is playing in the Bush administration's so-called war on terrorism. American officials have grown impatient over Pakistan's inability to fight the insurgency, long perceived to be a US problem, not a Pakistani one.