Bangladesh - Air Force Modernization
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.
Forces Goal 2030 is a military modernization program of the Bangladesh Armed Forces which began in 2009 and revised in 2017. Since the formulation of the forces goal 2030, by 2018 BAF had taken the delivery of sixteen Chengdu F-7BGI fighter aircraft, sixteen Yakovlev Yak-130 advanced jet trainers, nine K-8W jet trainer aircraft, three Let L-410 Turbolet transport trainer aircraft and twenty three PT-6 basic trainers. It appeared that the Government of Bangladesh earmarked 2016-2017 for finalizing the much-awaited modernization programs for the armed forces. The Bangladesh Air Force would see the procurement of multi-role fighter aircraft and enhancements to its integrated air defence system.
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 modernize 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 Cox’s Bazar into an advanced base to increase the force’s 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 had 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 installments 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 planes – fighter, transport and training aircraft – and 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.
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 Control, 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 deal’s 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.
China is Bangladesh's main arms supplier. Bangladesh initially requested in 2016 to buy advanced military weapons. Officials said they then offered to supply the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) with two types of attack helicopters and BAAF to take the helicopter to the AH-64 side. By late 2019 the Air Force was waiting for the approval of the Bangladesh government in this regard.
In line with the Forces Goal 2030, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said 08 February 2017, the government is planning to build the Army and Air Force prudent and professional by providing them with ultramodern technologies and automatic machineries. “To accomplish these goals we have added F-7 BG fighter planes, helicopters and missiles for sky defense,” she said. Sheikh Hasina said according to the Force’s Goal 2030, Air Force now added new units and more manpower. Bangabandhu Aeronautical center has been approved while Bangabandhu and Cox’s Bazar Air Force camps have been declared as fulltime base, she said.
Bangladesh Air Force received Yakovlev Yak-130 multi-role trainers and Agustawestland AW139 search and rescue helicopters on 06 December 2015. The Yakovlev Yak-130 is a subsonic two-seat advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft or lead-in fighter trainer. The AW139 is a 15-seat medium sized twin-engine search and rescue helicopter developed by Italy’s AgustaWestland. Bangladesh had signed a deal with Russian state arms export agency Rosoboronexport to buy 24 Yak-130 trainers developed by the Irkut Corporation. Bangladesh also signed a deal to purchase two AW 139 helicopters, which will be used by the BAF to perform maritime search and rescue (SAR) operations and other utility missions.
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