Operational Structure & Organization of the PAF
Currently, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has around 65,000 active and 8,000 reserve personnel. Its Headquarters, called Air Headquarters, are in Rawalpindi, to the south of the capital, Islamabad.
The overall operational and administrative command of the PAF vests in the Chief of the Air Staff who exercises these functions through the PAF's Air Headquarters. He is assisted by a Vice Chief of Air Staff and 4 Deputy Chiefs of the Air Staff who control and administer the Administration, Operations, Maintenance and Electronics divisions of the PAF respectively.
The operational command of the PAF comprises of 4 directorates. These are the:
- Directorate of Administration
- Directorate of Operations
- Directorate of Maintenance
- Directorate of Electronics
There are also some non-operational Directorates. These are:
- Directorate of Air Intelligence
- Directorate of Public Relations
The flying operations of the air force are carried out from a number of operational, training and maintenance air bases located all over the country. Each base is headed by a Base Commander. The respective Base Commanders are responsible to the Chief of the Air Staff for the operational readiness and combat efficiency of their bases.
Ranks in the PAF
The commissioned ranks of the PAF in descending order of authority are comprised of the following offices:
- Air Chief Marshal (ACM)
- Vice Air Chief Marshal (VACM) - Air Marshal (AM)
- Air Vice Marshal (AVM)
- Air Commodore (Air Cdr.)
- Group Captain (Grp. Cpt.)
- Wing Commander (Wing Cmd.)
- Squadron Leader (Sqn. Ldr.)
- Flight Lieutenant (Flt. Lt.)
- Flying Officer (FO)
The non-commissioned cadets at the Pakistan Air Force Academy at Risalpur were called Pilot Officers. However, the PAF has now eliminated the rank of the Pilot Officer and the officers are now directly commissioned as Flying Officers.
The tactical command of the PAF is based on the following rank structure:
- A Group Captain commands a group of Wings;
- A Wing Commander commands a Wing of Squadrons; and
- A Squadron Leader commands a Squadron.
For the operational command and control functions of the PAF, Pakistan has been divided into 3 air defence 'districts', each under the responsibility of a Defence Command. The defence command of the PAF's 3 air defence districts include the:
- Northern Command
- Central Command
- Southern Command
These Commands are based at the major air bases at Sargodha, Malir, Masroor, Gilgit, Mauripur, Lahore, Mianwali, Peshawar, Quetta and Risalpur. They have the responsibility of monitoring and guarding Pakistani airspace, in providing support to ground, naval and paramilitary security forces and of defending the country against air attacks. Secondary missions include the provision of air transport to ground troops when needed, the co-ordination of civil and military air defence activities, and the conduct of technical training for civil aviation specialists.
The PAF uses composite type Wings. Wings are basically a group of fighter, bomber, search-rescue and radar squadrons present at a particular base. PAF has currently 20 wings, including eight flying wings, that contain a total of 50 squadrons.
The 8 Flying Wings are:
- No. 32
- No. 33
- No. 34
- No. 35
- No. 36
- No. 37
- No. 38
- No. 39
The number of squadrons assigned to a particular Wing vary considerably. For example, No. 39 Wing at Kamra has only two squadrons while No. 32 at Masroor has five. Some attempt at consolidation of particular aircraft types at particular bases does seem to have occurred but this is far from universal, with, for example the 4 tactical units at Masroor flying a mixed inventory which includes the A-5III/C, the F-7P and the Mirage.
Squadrons The Pakistan Air Force has operated over 40 basic types of aircraft since its formation in 1947. Today it operates a total of around 30 fighter, bomber, search-rescue, reconnaissance, transport and training squadrons.
Currently 20 squadrons exist, but only 12 of these are fully-fledged combat-role units. Of these 12, two have F-16s (Nos. 9 and 11 Sqn.), three have F-6s (Nos. 15, 17 and 23), four have F-7Ps (Nos. 2, 14, 18, and 19), two have A-5Cs (Nos. 16 and 26), one has Mirage IIIEPs and IIIRPs (No. 5) and one has Mirage 5PA2s and 5PA3s (No 8). The remaining eight squadrons are all concerned with training and other support roles.
Five of these squadrons are commonly referred to as Operational Conversion Units (OCUs) and their primary task is directed towards providing a steady stream of qualified aircrew to front-line squadrons. Each of the five major types in the PAF inventory is supported by an 'OCU squadron' and these units comprise No. 7 (Mirage VPAs), No. 11 (F-16), No. 19 (F-7P), No. 22 (Mirage) and No. 25 (F-6).
A brief description of each is given below :
- No. 1 Squadron (FCU) - Raised on April 28, 1975 and equipped with FT-5 aircraft.
- No. 2 Squadron - Raised on June 1, 1957 and is presently equipped with F-7P aircraft.
- No. 5 Squadron - Raised on August 15, 1947 and is presently equipped with Mirage IIIEP/RP aircraft.
- No. 6 Squadron - Raised on August 15, 1947 and is presently equipped with C-130 aircraft.
- No. 7 Squadron - Raised on March 1, 1960 and is presently equipped with Mirage VPA aircraft.
- No. 8 Squadron - Raised on August 1, 1960 and is presently equipped with Mirage VPA3/PA2 aircraft.
- No. 9 Squadron - Raised on January 3, 1944 and is presently equipped with F-16A aircraft.
- No. 11 Squadron (OCU) - Raised in June, 1951 and is presently equipped with F-16 A/B aircraft.
- No. 12 Squadron - Raised in March 1950 and is presently equipped with Boeing 707, Falcon, Fokker F-27 aircraft.
- No. 14 Squadron - Raised in November, 1948 and is presently equipped with F-7P aircraft.
- No. 15 Squadron - Raised on June 15, 1956 and is presently equipped with F-7P aircraft.
- No. 16 Squadron - Raised in 1957 and is presently equipped with A-5C aircraft.
- No. 17 Squadron - Raised on April 1, 1957 and is presently equipped with F-6/FT-6/F-7P aircraft.
- No. 18 Squadron - Raised on February 1, 1958 and is presently equipped with F-7P aircraft.
- No. 19 Squadron (OCU) - Raised on February 1, 1958 and is presently equipped with F-7P aircraft.
- No. 20 Squadron - Raised in 1957 and is presently equipped with F-7P aircraft.
- No. 22 Squadron (OCU) - Raised in 1984 and is presently equipped with Mirage VPA/DPA/IIIDP aircraft.
- No. 23 Squadron - Raised on March 16, 1961 and is presently equipped with F-6 aircraft.
- No. 24 Squadron (ESM) - Raised in December, 1962 and is presently equipped with Falcon 20 F/G aircraft.
- No. 25 Squadron (OCU) - Raised in January, 1966 and is presently equipped with F-6/FT-6 aircraft.
- No. 26 Squadron - Raised on August 30, 1967 and is presently equipped with A-5C aircraft.
- No. 41 Squadron - Raised 1967 and is presently equipped with Cessna 172, Aero-Commander, Beach - Travel aircraft.
In addition, there are 6 Search-Rescue squadrons each equipped with 2 Alouette III helicopters and two Mirage VPA and F-7P Squadrons at the Combat Commanders School (CCS), Sargodha.
Maintenance Depots of the PAF consist of the following:
- No. 101 Air logistics
- No. 102 Air Maintenance Depot
- No. 103 Air Logistic Depot
- No. 104 Air Maintenance Depot
- No. 105 Air Ordnance Depot
- No. 106 Air Ordnance Depot
- No. 107 Air Electronics Depot
- No. 108 Air Electronics Depot
- No. 109 Air Ordnance Depot
- No. 111 Air Electronics Depot
- Central Technical Development Unit
- Pakistan Air Force Academy, Risalpur
- College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur
- Flying Instructors School, Risalpur
- Combat Commanders School, Sargodha
- Transport Conversion School, Chaklala
- School of Aeronautics, Korangi Creek
- School of Electronics, Korangi Creek
- Air War College, Karachi
- Junior Command and Staff School, Kohat
- Air Defence School, Sakesar
- Aero-Medical Institute, PAF Base Masroor
- Ski & Survival School, Kalabagh
- Pre-Trade Training School, Kohat
- Administrative Trade Training School, Kohat
- JCO's Academy, Kohat
The remaining training establishments are aimed at pilots or markedly differing levels of skills. At the top end of scale, there is the elite Combat Commanders' School (CCS) which is responsible for disseminating advanced fighter tactics and doctrine. This has two subordinate units, specifically the 'Mirage Squadron' (with Mirage 5PAs) and the 'F-6 Squadron' (with F-6). Instructor staff with the CCS are generally acknowledged to be the 'best of the best' and would also have a war role to fulfil in the event of a conflict.
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