WASHINGTON - The US Air Force is set to deliver the first of 18 new super-sophisticated F-16 jet fighters to the Pakistan Air Force in a sign of deepening relations between the two countries, the Pentagon said Wednesday. Three F-16s are scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on June 26, with 15 more to be delivered later this year and next, Air Force Major Todd Robbins, the Pakistan country director in the office of the undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said. This is the most visible part of a strong and growing relationship between the two air forces that will benefit us both near-term and long-term, Robbins said. The aircraft will give Pakistans military an unprecedented advantage against violent extremists who threaten Pakistan and the region, officials said, by enabling precision targeting in all weather conditions, day and night. This sale of F-16s to Pakistan renews new aircraft sales that existed between the United States and Pakistan in the 1980s, but were halted in the 1990s. Defence Secretary Robert Gates and other US military and civilian leaders have spoken out about not repeating the mistakes of the US halt in relations with Pakistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In March, the United States and Pakistan held their first ministerial-level strategic dialogue here, co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi. High-level officials from both governments participated in the dialogue, including Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gates said then that the talks included discussion of how we can help Pakistan in dealing with the security challenges that face them, but also face us and NATO as well. The two countries held follow-up meetings in Pakistan in early June that focused on improving military-to-military relations and security cooperation, officials said. Relations with Pakistan improved after September 11, 2001, Robbins said, and this is just one very tangible example of the currently strong and growing relationship between the US Air Force and the Pakistan Air Force and, in the larger context, between the United States and Pakistan. The F-16 is a multirole jet fighter sold to 24 countries around the world, according to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. The 18 being sold to Pakistan are the Block 52 versions of the aircraft, Robbins said, which will give Pakistan new capabilities, including day-night, all weather and precision-attack capabilities. Theyve not had [these capabilities] before, so this is a major milestone in the US providing this capability, which older models [of F-16s] dont have, he said. This will enable them to strike terrorists within their borders while helping them to avoid collateral damage. Its an increase in capabilities that are beneficial to us all. Pakistan is paying $1.4 billion for the 18 new aircrafts, in addition to $1.3 billion in upgrades to its existing F-16 fleet, which are to begin being delivered in 2012, Robbins said. The Air Force also is training Pakistan Air Force pilots. The first eight recently completed training with the Arizona National Guard in Tucson, with additional training done by Lockheed Martin, Robbins said. The Air Force also is training Pakistanis in night-attack training and recently completed training for four instructors and five flight leads, he said.