Pakistan Air Force

Pakistan Air Force was born on 14th of August 1947, with the independence of Pakistan. The growth of PAF is a story of unusual sacrifice. A tiny auxiliary Service, with a small number of personnel and insignificant equipment, emerging as a powerful weapon of the country's defence, was a thrilling phenomenon. The dedication of its pioneers shaped the future of a force, destined to gain respect, after proving its worth in the wars of 1965 and 1971, where it was unfortunately vanquished by a much more powerful enemy, India. The story of PAF is a tale of development, despite heavy odds and limitations.

The PAF emblem symbolizes a Muslim flyer. The most striking element is the spread eagle perched in the centre of the roundel. Referred to as "Shaheen" the eagle is a bird of heraldry in eastern tradition. The poet-philosopher of the east, Allama lqbal, has visualized a true believer in the grace and majesty of the bird Shaheen. A man imbued with the love and devotion of his Maker (Allah) would, in the spirit of the bird eagle, be capable of high flight and supremacy over the enemy.'ln the emblem, there is a verse line from lqbal's poetry over the bird "Shaheen". Translated, into English, it would read "Be it land or sea, all is beneath my wings". In the same spirit, PAF is honour-bound to play its crucial role in the defence of Pakistan.

In 1994 the Pakistan Air Force had 45,000 active personnel and 8,000 reserve personnel. Headquartered in Rawalpindi, it comprised directorates for operations, maintenance, administration, and electronics. There were three air defense districts -- north, central, and south. The Air Force relies on aging Mirage III and V variants, Chinese models of older Soviet MiGs, and a few F-16A Falcons delivered in the 1980s. Any qualitative edge Pakistan might once have enjoyed over India was gone, except perhaps in subsystems and electronic warfare components.

In 1994 the air force was organized into eighteen squadrons, with a total of 430 combat aircraft. Of the forty aircraft originally acquired, thirty-four were in service by 1994, divided among three squadrons. Some were reportedly grounded because of a lack of spare parts resulting from the 1990 United States suspension of military transfers to Pakistan. Pakistan had an additional seventy-one F-16s on order, but delivery has been suspended since 1990. Other interceptors included 100 Chinese J-6s (which were scheduled to be phased out) and eighty J-7s, organized into four squadrons and two squadrons, respectively. Air-to-air missiles included the Sparrow, Sidewinder, and Magic.

The air force had a ground-attack role. The air force had three squadrons of Chinese Q-5s (a total of fifty aircraft) as well as one squadron of eighteen Mirage IIIs and three squadrons (fifty-eight aircraft) of Mirage 5s, one squadron of which was equipped with Exocet missiles and was deployed in an antiship role. In 1994 Pakistan took out of storage thirty of forty-eight Mirage IIIs that it had originally acquired from Australia; the Mirages were grouped into a fighter squadron. Additionally, Pakistan's Mirage 5s were scheduled to be upgraded with French assistance.

The backbone of the transport fleet was formed by twelve C-130 Hercules, which had recently been upgraded; plans to acquire more were stymied by the dispute with the United States over Pakistan's nuclear program. A pair of L-100s were bought to serve with the national airline and found their way into military service. One had since crashed but the other L-100 was the only remain unmodified L-100 operating in the world. There were also smaller transport aircraft and a variety of reconnaissance aircraft.

A rivalry exists between the Army and Air Force, and there is debate among the military regarding whether the Air Force should redefine its primary mission, which is to support Army operations during war. More than half of the Pakistan Air Force is dedicated to close air support operations. These units played a key role in defending Pakistani territory during the 1965 and 1971 wars.

Post-9/11 Acquisitions

The US security assistance relationship with Pakistan resumed subsequent to September 11. Given its geo-strategic location and partnership in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), Pakistan is a vital ally of the United States, as reflected in the June 2004 designation of Pakistan as a Major Non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization Ally. By 2008 the United States had delivered a variety of equipment to Pakistan, including refurbished C-130E transports, refurbished P-3C surveillance aircraft, refurbished Cobra helicopters, new Bell 412 helicopters and a number of Harpoon missiles, Harris radios, AN/TPS-77 surveillance radars, night vision goggles and AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles.

On 16 July 2002, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan of C-130E Cargo Aircraft and associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $75 Million. The Government of Pakistan has requested a possible sale of six used C-130E aircraft with engines, one C-130E operational capabilities upgrade aircraft for cannibalization with engines, upgrade of engines to Allison 56-A-15 engines, modification kits, spare and repair parts, devices, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $75 million. 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 which has been and continues to be an important force for economic progress in South Asia. Pakistan needs these aircraft to support a current and long-term airlift shortfall, both for Pakistan Air Force internal requirements, and as it seeks to support the U.S. Government with Operation Enduring Freedom. These C-130E aircraft will be used for the purpose of providing airlift support. Pakistan can easily absorb and utilize these within its existing structure. In August 2003 Pakistan agreed to receive from the US six ex-Australian Air Force Lockheed C-130E Hercules aircraft. The seven aircraft had been in storage in the USA for three years awaiting re-sale. A contract was signed in September 2004, for Lockheed to upgrade the six aircrafts, while the seventh example will be used as spares. The first of the six Lockheed C-130 Hercules military cargo airplanes ordered by PAF in 2003, left US on 31 October 2005, heading for Islamabad. The disposition of these aircraf is unclear - logically, they would replace the older L-100 and C-130B in the PAF inventory, but this point is unresolved in the open literature.

PAF ordered four Mi-171 helicopters in 2002 from Ukraine for its Special Services Group, which were delivered in 2004. A follow-on order of further 12 examples was also placed. The helicopters were intended for search and rescue duties at various PAF bases. The delivery of the follow on order also commenced in 2004.

The first of four CN-235 transport aircraft ordered by PAF was delivered three months late, in February 2004, due to labour dispute at the aircraft factory. PAF ordered these planes in 2002 in a $52 million deal. The second example was delivered in September 2004. The delivery of the third was due in October and the final was due in December 2004. The final of the four CN-235 ordered by PAF from Indonesia, was delivered in Jun 2005. This is a VIP aircraft, the interior of which has been designed and fitted by Avion-interiors of Italy.

In July 2004 PAF finalised a deal with Libya to buy its fleet of 50 Mirage IIIs and Vs, 150 sealed pack engines and a huge quantity of Mirage spares. Libya had purchased the Mirage jets in the 1970s, and they had been grounded for the previous decade following sanctions imposed after the Boeing 747 was blown up over Lockerbie. With these airframes, Pakistan operated more Mirages than the French Air Force. It is believed that jets would be cannibalized for spare parts to provide spares for the PAF fleet of Mirages for the next seven to ten years. As of 2009 the Mirage Rebuild Factory, which is a part of PAC, had been rebuilding 35 year old version of the Mirage aircraft which were bought as scrap from various countries.

Following the delivery of two JF-17 aircraft from China in 2007, PAF received delivery of a further six which were undergoing tests & evaluation at PAC Kamra as of April 2008. The assembly of JF-17 aircrafts in Pakistan was formally launched on 22 January 2008 at PAC Kamra. In the first year (2008), eight to ten aircrafts will be assembled for the Pakistan Air Force. The assembly will gradually increase to 25 aircraft per year by 2011. It is reported that around 60% of the frame of the aircraft and 80% of the avionics to be fitted in the aircraft will be manufactured in Pakistan by 2010. PAF have a requirement of 150 aircraft in phase-I. The first 40 to 50 examples would have the Chinese avionics, thereafter the aircraft would be fitted will indigenously developed avionics.

In June 2006, the PAF had signed a deal for the supply of six Saab 2000s. However, because of shortage of funds, the number of aircraft was revised to five. Another report suggests that the Erieye airborne surveillance system deal involves up to eight Saab 2000 aircraft. The first Saab 2000 AEWC aircraft ordered for the PAF was rolled out on 3 April 2008 at the SAAB factory in Sweden. The ERIEYE, developed by the Ericsson Microwave Systems, comprises fixed, dual-sided and electronically scanned phased-array pulse-Doppler radar mounted on top of the fuselage.

Pakistan Air Force received the delivery of a second Gulfstream 450 aircraft in November 2007. The first aircraft was delivered in December 2005.

In September 2008 it was reported that Pakistan was to receive 20 refurbished T-37 training aircrafts from the USA. The aircraft will be supplied to Pakistan free of charge, however Pakistan will bear the cost of shipment only. The delivery of the aircraft was due in two months time.

On 25 January 2009 Pakistan's defence minister informed the parliament that Pakistan has placed a $278 million order for the Chinese AWACS system ZDK-03 based on Chinese Y-8 aircraft.

In January 2009 PAF received delivery of two IL-78 tanker aircraft from Ukraine, out of the four ordered. Once the IL-78 tanker aircraft have been commissioned into service, it will enhance the long range capability of Pakistan air force.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief of Staff Tanveer Mehmud Ahmad gave an interview to AFM and was published in the September 2008 issue.

  • By 2015, PAF would comprise 240 JF-17, 60 F-16's, 40 FC-20's (PAF version of J-10), 50 F-7PG's [for a total of 390 combat aircraft, versus 335 in 2008], along with 4 SAAB Erieye, 4 ZDK-03 (PAF version of Y-8), 4 IL-78 Midas. In 2015 the PAF will remain at its current strength of 15 Squadrons.
  • The current order status comprised 150 JF-17's, 32 F-16's (variant unspecified), 4 Erieye's, and 4 IL-78.
  • The Block 52 F-16's will be based at PAF Shahbaz to replace Mirage air defense aircraft.
  • The Peshawar based 26 & 16 Squadrons will be the first to convert from A-5 to JF-17 in 2009. Delivery of JF-17 had started and once the assembly facility had been completed at AMF, the induction pace will pick-up to eventually allow delivery of 25-30 aircraft per year to achieve the final numbers by 2015 [this makes no sense, with a 30/year production rate only yielding about 150 aircraft by 2015, not the stated 240]. The 150 JF-17's are expected to equip 7 or 8 squadrons.
  • The FC-20 order would be confirmed in 2009. The current J-10 technology was not up to PAF requirements, and PAF hoped to include western equipment in the J-10. This would create a different version than the PLAAF J-10, which would be known as FC-20 in PAF service. The FC-20 would not be required to have conformal fuel tanks, since it had sufficient internal fuel capacity as well as AAR by Il-78 Midas tankers. The FC-20 requirement was 2 squadrons of 36-40 single and dual seater aircraft.
  • The IL-78 Midas tankers would provide aerial refueling for all PAF fighter aircraft excepttf the US manufactured F-16s. The F-16s can only refuel with a boom system, and the Midas will be equipped with a probe and drogue underwing pods system. First Midas delivery will commence early 2009. PAF is holding out hope that a KC-135 could be acquired from the US in the near future.
  • While the Erieye's will datalink the F-16's, they will not be able to do so with the Mirage fleet. The first Erieye will be delivered in 2009, followed by the remainder by 2011. The Chinese origin fighter aircraft will have AEW&C support from the planned acquisition of 4 ZDK-03 (Chinese Y-8 AWACS). The ZDK-03 contract was close to be being finalised for the required 4 aircraft.
  • The PAF is acquiring 2 Squadrons of the Italian Falco UAV with coversion taking place for operations from PAF Mushaf and PAF Peshawar. Eventually, the PAF plans to field 5-6 UAV Sqn's.

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