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Bangladesh - Air Force Modernization

As of mid-1988, the air force inventory included three squadrons of combat aircraft, some of which were probably unserviceable. These squadrons included vintage MiG-21 interceptors supplied by the Soviet Union during the Mujib period. In 1978 China supplied fifteen F-6s (the Chinese version of the Soviet MiG-19) and sixteen A-5s in 1986. The Chinese-supplied fighter inventory in early 1988 totaled two squadrons, or about thirty A-5s and F-6s. Transport aircraft included one An-26 squadron supplied by the Soviets. Helicopters, used in disaster relief and troop transport operations, included thirteen American-made Bell 212s (twin-engine Hueys) and eleven Soviet-supplied Mi-8s.

The AL government in 1996-2001 purchased eight MiG-29 fighters for the air force. On coming to power in 2001, the BNP-led four-party government brought charges against Hasina and others for corruption in that purchase. In 2007 Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group supplied to Bangladesh 12 F-7BG and 4 FT-7BG two-seater fighters.

In August 2009 Bangladesh Air Force completed plans to urgently purchase one squadron of fighter trainer aircraft and simulators for fighter planes and helicopters, and set up overhauling plants for the existing F-7 fighter planes and MI series helicopters. It had prepared long-term plans for other major defence purchases by 2021 and beyond to modernise the force. It also was seeking either 10 percent increase in budgetary allocation or special allocation for the next 10 years to achieve the target.

The report which describes the problems the air force is facing and suggests ways to overcome them, was placed before the parliamentary standing committee on defence ministry on 14 July 009 for discussion. The plans included purchasing of air defence radars and surface-to-air missile systems to protect important establishments of the force, replacement of A-5, FT-5 and F-7 fighter planes and induction of aircraft for airborne early warning, a system used for directing fighters to targets and counter attacks.

The air force was also seeking to turn Coxs Bazar into an advanced base to increase the forces operational capability, approval of an organogram of the Kurmitola base, increase in healthcare facility for the force members and proper steps regarding their salaries and allowances. The air force suggested that the purchases be completed in phases by 2021. After 2021, it wants to begin purchasing aircraft in phases to form three air defence squadrons. An air force squadron typically consists of three or four air units, with a total of 12 to 24 aircraft, depending on the type of aircraft and the air force.

The Air Force said the budgetary allocation for the air force has been decreased in the last two financial years. The allocation was increased to 20.90 percent of the total defence budget in FY 2005-06 from 18.56 percent in 2004-05. In FY 2006-07, the air force was given 20.97 percent of the total defence budget. But the allocation was decreased to 15.57 percent in FY 2007-08 and 15.11 percent in FY 2008-09. In the report, the air force demanded either 25 percent of the total defence budget or a special allocation in the next 10 years.

Most of the budgetary allocation is spent for maintenance, salaries and allowances, supplies and services and instalments of previous purchases. Only 4-6 percent of it is spent for major purchases, the report says. In defence of purchasing new equipment, the report said it was facing tremendous difficulties in playing due role with the aged aircraft.

As of 2009, the force has over 160 planesfighter, transport and training aircraftand helicopters, of which 70 percent are aged over 20 years and 18 percent inducted in the last 10 years. The July 2009 report said the air force had planned to set up overhauling plants for the existing F-7 fighter planes and MI helicopters. If two plants are set up in the country, two to three F-7 aircraft and three to four MI choppers could be overhauled each year and will not require sending abroad. The air force had so far overhauled Bell helicopters 65 times and PT-6 planes 76 times at its own maintenance unit. In the two years 2008-2009, five fighter aircraft were overhauled in the country with the help of foreign consultants.

According to the Russian military news network report on 01 December 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh Army said the government would purchase a large number of various types of weapons and equipment for the protection of its exclusive economic zone, to participate in UN peacekeeping action. China had been a major arms supplier to Bangladesh, the procurement of most of the weapons may be in the favorable financial conditions or military assistance to China within the framework of supply.

As of late 2010 there were reports that Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group was negotiating with the Bangladesh Air Force for the sale of the JF-17 and the more modern F-10 fighter supply. But as of mid-2012 nothing had emerged on this front, and it appeared that Bangladesh Air Force would not procure the JF-17/FC-1 or J-10. Some observers suggested that the Chinese would not sell J-10 or JF-17 to an Awami governed Bangladesh, while if the BNP came into power they would scrap all the deals with Russia. Procurement will depend on which party is in power.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 05 December 2011 presided at the induction ceremony of surface-to-air missile system and Bangabandhu Aeronautical Centre at Kurmitola Air Force Base. The missile system of FM-90 category is a short-range air defence system (SHORADS). Hasina said one squadron F-7BGI fighter planes and some other helicopters are going to be included in the arsenal of the Air Force. Besides, procurement of several transports aircraft is also under consideration.

As of 2012 it was reported that in 2011 China had agreed to a $800 million arms sale, the details of which were made public in late April 2012. It includes 16 (a squadron) F-7 BGI fighter planes and radar equipment. One squadron of stop-gap light fighter Chengdu F-7BGI had been ordered for delivery in 2012. These aircraft were a new variant equipped with advanced avionics, including HOTAS Contol, three MFD display and HUD. The aircraft are equipped with both air-to-air and GPS guided munitions. These F-7s were ordered to replace the BAF's aging A-5Cs & F-7MBs and act as a 'stop gap'.

This 2011 Chinese deal was said to include three MI-171 helicopters. A total of 6 Mi-35 attack helicopters and 3 Mi-171sh support helicopters were reported to be inducted, without a clear timeline specified.

The existing Mig-29 inventory will be upgraded to Mig-29SMT standard. The air force will also acquire a squadron of Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) to replace the existing L-39 inventory. Another [poorly attested as of early 2012] deal with Russia for about $850 million would supply a squadron of multi-role combat aircraft advanced jet trainers and radars. The Bangladesh Air Force was said to be signing a contract with Russia for 16 MiG-29SMT/M2 or 8 MiG-29SMT, one squadron of 16 Yak-130AJT to replace 16 L-39s and one squadron of the single engine Hongdu / Yakovlev L-7 (Yak-152) to replace the ageing fleet of PT-6 trainers. Within two years of receiving these aircraft, the Bangladesh Air Force was to introduce 16 SU-30MK2s.

Bangladesh ordered 24 Russian Yak-130 light fighter jets worth $800 million in the final quarter of 2013, a Russian newspaper reported 28 January 2014. The deal was paid for with a loan extended by Moscow to the country a year ago, the director of Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said in a separate interview published by Kommersant, without disclosing the deals price tag. The newspaper said that the sale was worth $800 million, citing unnamed sources in the defense industry. The planes were to be fitted with English-language cockpits and delivery is scheduled to begin in 2015.

The Forces Goal Vision 2030 is intended to enable the Bangladesh Air Force to be one of the most advanced outfits in the region, and to effectively provide a deterrent against the threats posed by neighboring countries.Air Marshal Shah Mohammad Ziaur Rahman, the Chief of Air Staff of the Bangladesh Air Force, discussed the BAF modernization program at the Defense IQ 2011 International Fighter Aircraft Conference in London. The long-term procurement program includes plans to eventually introduce 20-32 4+ generation fighter aircraft. At that time, the aircraft being evaluated were primarily the Mig-29CMT and Lockheed Martin F-16. The Sukhoi Su-30 and SAAB JAS-39 Gripen were also under consideration. The tiemframe for delievery was 10-15 years, that is, sometime between 2020 and 2025. It is not clear whether this program assumes that any of these aircraft will still be in production, or whether acqusition of used is contemplated.





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