Pakistan's Defense Private Sector Emerges with Indigenous UAV Technology
Back in 1970, the American Army Gen. William Westmoreland is reported to have said: "On the battlefield of the future, enemy forces will be located, tracked and targeted almost instantaneously through the use of data links, computer-assisted intelligence and automated fire control. … I am confident the American people expect this country to take full advantage of its technology-to welcome and applaud the developments that will replace wherever possible the man with the machine." It seems that this vision from the 1970s is being realized today. One manifestation of it is the development and deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles by many nations, including Pakistan.
The growing reliance on armed drones (aka Predators) by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan's FATA region to target militants has been making headlines with increasing casualties.
This technology of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones designed and manufactured in Pakistan has also been making news since the IDEAS (International Defense Exhibition and Seminar) 2008 event, a 5-day biennial arms show held November last year in Karachi, Pakistan. Among the largest foreign pavilions at the exhibition, Turkey had 28 companies and United States had 22. Other major exhibitors came from China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Among other products, Pakistani companies showed off JF-17 fighter plane built by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in partnership with China's Chengdu Aircraft, Al-Khalid main battle tank, and a variety of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) designed, developed and built in Pakistan.
While offering employment to thousands, and strengthening Pakistan's defense, the growing indigenous sophistication of many of the private sector companies is also becoming an attractive investment opportunity.
One such Company is Integrated Dynamics, a privately held Pakistani company that drew attention at the IDEAS 2008 expo. It is a developer and manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles which is exported to Australia, Spain, South Korea and Libya and the United States. The UAV Company is an example of a new generation of private defense companies in Pakistan that have grown with the emerging needs of Pakistani military and export opportunities to both military and civilian sectors abroad.
The company says they are committed to the use of the UAV system as a scientific and defensive tool that can be used to save lives and monitor potentially hostile environments for human personnel. The company also makes drones such as the turbojet-powered Tornado decoy, which can fly up to 200 kilometers, and emit false radar signals to "confuse enemy air defenses into thinking they are attacking aircraft," according to Defense News of Pakistan.
In addition to supplying drones to the Pakistani military, the company exports its products to Australia, Spain, South Korea and Libya and the United States. The US Homeland Security Department uses ID's Border Eagle surveillance drone for border patrol duties. Integrated Dynamics' products cost only a fraction of the cost of comparable products made in the United States and Europe. According to the Karachi-based company, ID UAV prices start from about USD 20,000 while in comparison UAV products made in the West start from about USD 200,000. The ID models have operational ranges of 20 to 1,600 kilometers.
Integrated Dynamics had begun to develop the Firefly mini-rocket UAV in late 2004 in response to the Pakistani army's operational requirements for a high-speed, short-range observation system that could be used in the high-altitude environments of northern Pakistan. A basic system of such sort costs around USD 3,000 and comprises four rockets, a launcher, a carry case, datalink and a PDA-based ground control station.
Emerging Sophistication from a Cottage Industry
Pakistan's arms manufacturing sector has long been considered to be a cottage industry. The dusty little town of Darra Adam Khel,only a half-hour drive from Peshawar, reminds visitors of America's Wild West. The craftsmen of this town are manufacturers and suppliers of small arms to the tribal residents of the nation's Federally Administered Tribal Areas who carry weapons as part of their ancient culture. The skilled craftsmen of FATA make revolvers, automatic pistols, shotguns and AK-47 rifles. Until five years ago, the list also had items such as anti-personnel mines, sub-machine guns, small cannons and even rocket launchers. The Pakistani government has forced the tribesmen to stop making heavy assault weapons to try and prevent the Taliban and Al Qaeda from having access to such weapons.
Pakistan's arms industry has come a long way from making small arms as a cottage industry in the last few decades. The US and Western arms embargoes imposed on Pakistan at critical moments in history have proved to be a blessing in disguise. In particular, the problems Pakistan faced in the aftermath of the Pressler Amendment in 1992 became an opportunity for the country to rely on indigenous development and production of defense equipment.
Pakistan's Military Industrial Complex
The country now boasts a powerful industrial, technological and research-based developing and manufacturing sector for its armed forces and exports a wide variety of small and large weapons ranging from modern fighter jets, battle tanks, armored vehicles, frigates and submarines to unmanned aerial vehicles and high tech firearms and personal grenade launchers for urban combat. Some of these items were on display at IDEAS 2008.
Pakistan has become an increasingly important player in the world arms industry, a global industry and business which manufactures and sells weapons and military technology and equipment. Arms production companies, also referred to as Defense Contractors, produce arms mainly for the armed forces of nation states. Products include guns, ammunition, missiles, military aircraft, military vehicles, ships, electronic Systems, and more. The arms industry also conducts significant research and development. Pakistan's major defense manufacturing companies are owned and operated by Pakistan's military.
According to Business Monitor, Pakistan's defense industry contains over 20 major public sector units (PSUs) and over 100 private-sector firms. The majority of major weapons systems production and assembly is undertaken by the state-owned PSUs, while the private-sector supplies parts, components, bladed weapons and field equipment.
IDEAS 2000, Pakistan's first major arms show, was organized after former President Musharraf assumed leadership of the country in the wake of the 1999 bloodless coup that toppled the Nawaz Sharif government. At the show, the former president emphasized the need for the growth of Pakistan's defense industry and private sector involvement in R&D, manufacturing and marketing of arms. Held every two years since the year 2000, the show has become a runaway success. It has helped Pakistan and other friendly nations to show off their wares, find customers, share knowledge, build bilateral partnerships, encourage scientific innovation and learning among young people and made visitors and Pakistani citizens more aware of the role the defense industry plays in national defense and economy.
World Arms Market
It is estimated that yearly, over USD 1 trillion are spent on military expenditures worldwide (2% of World GDP). Part of this goes to the procurement of military hardware and services from the military industry. The combined arms sales of the top 100 largest arms producing companies amounted to an estimated USD 315 billion in 2006. In 2004 over USD 30 billion were spent in the international arms trade (excluding domestic arms sales). Many industrialized countries have a domestic arms industry to supply their own military forces. Some countries also have a substantial legal or illegal domestic trade in weapons for use by its citizens. The illegal trade in small arms is prevalent in many countries and regions affected by political instability.
Pakistan's Arms Business
In a July 2008 interview with Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, Major General Mohammad Farooq, Director General of the Defense Export Promotion Organization, claimed that Pakistan's defense exports have tripled to around USD 300 million because of the quality of its ammunition, anti-tank guided missiles, rocket launchers and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. He said exports to South Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries had increased significantly. It has been reported that Sri Lanka has purchased cluster bombs, deep penetration bombs and rockets and UAVs from Pakistan.
General Farooq said optical instruments like night vision devices, laser range-finders and designators, laser threat sensors, artillery armor mortars and munitions, mine detectors, anti-tank rifles, missile boats, different types of tear gases, fuses of unarmed vehicles, security equipment and sporting and hunting guns were also being manufactured in Pakistan. "The fuses are being purchased by countries like Italy, France and Spain," he said.
In recent times however, Pakistan has come under criticism by human rights groups for being a leading manufacturer and exporter of land-mines, cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions.
Pakistan's UAV Industry
The three main branches of the Pakistani military are evaluating UAVs made in Pakistan and the rest of the world for purchase and deployment.
Between the public and private sector UAVs developed in Pakistan, there is a long list of products. In addition to Integrated Dynamics described above, here are three more UAV companies in Pakistan:
One of the companies at the forefront of UAV development is East West Infinity (EWI). EWI's latest products are the Heliquad micro tactical UAV and the Whisper Watch signals intelligence (SIGINT) package. The Heliquad was first displayed in prototype form at the IDEAS 2006 defense exhibition. Equipped with a tiny camera, it can relay pictures back to troops or Special Forces in an urban environment or in the field, giving them a tactical reconnaissance capability. Being exceptionally small and powered by four electric motors, Heliquad is highly stealthy and represents the cutting edge of EWI's electronics miniaturization. SIGINT has become more important with ongoing anti-terrorism operations on the western front and in the tribal areas. Designed for militaries unable to afford high-end, dedicated SIGINT platforms, the company says its Whisper Watch platform is most effective when aerostat-mounted, as the platform is stationary and airborne for longer.
Satuma (Surveillance and Target Unmanned Aircraft), founded in 1989, is a small UAV specialist company based near Islamabad, Pakistan. Satuma products include Flamingo, Jasoos and Mukhbar UAVs. Its biggest customer is the Pakistani military.
Global Industrial Defense Solutions
GIDS, the largest of the private defense sector companies, has a UAV division, which produces a whole range of operational and training UAVs, the main customer of which is the Pakistani military. The UAVs developed by GIDS have been extensively flight tested by the military. GIDS ground control stations have an interactive and user friendly interface, where flight parameters and auto-pilot mission planning, and execution is done in addition to reception of high-end crisp quality video transmitted over an encrypted digital link.
Headed by a retired PAF Air Vice Marshall, GIDS has emerged from a combination of 7 Pakistani private defense companies that include AERO (Advanced Engineering Research Organization), IDS (Integrated Defense Systems), MSL (Maritime Systems Pvt Limited), ACES (Advanced Computing and Engineering Solutions), IICS (Institute of Industrial Control Systems), ATCOP (AI-Technique Corporation) and SETS (Scientific Engineering and Technology Solutions). Other than UAVs, its major products include anti-personnel, anti-armor, incendiary, anti-runway, electronic impact and time-based fuses, electronic warfare equipment, navigation systems, optical fiber and optical fiber cables. Anti-tank Wire Guided Missile System known as "Baktar Shiken" made by IICS, is a component of GIDS.
Pakistan's growing defense industry is becoming high tech to keep up with the challenges of a changing world that requires advanced weapons and new strategies to maintain peace and stability in a hostile neighborhood. Simultaneously, Pakistan's defense industry is contributing to a scientific, technological, industrial and economic development of the nation by training and employing thousands of citizens. The investments made in defense production are a good bargain for the companies, their investors and the taxpayers of Pakistan to help ensure the nation's economic, political and national security against both internal and external threats.