Pakistan Air Force Chief Outlines Modernization Plans
Pakistan is negotiating with the U.S to purchase more Lockheed Martin F-16s in addition to the ones which they already have. In the same time Pakistan is developing its defense manufacturing capabilities in order to reduce its dependency on U.S.
Air Chief Marshall Rao Qamar Suleman announced the purchase while attending an air chiefs’ conference. Rao was asked how many aircraft does Pakistan want and he declined to specify a number, but said that all purchases are still in the negotiating stage and nothing is sure.
During 2006 the U.S. Congress agreed on giving Pakistan 28 F-16C/Ds under an excess defence articles scheme. Recently, Pakistan received the first 14 of 28 and according to Rao there is no information when these aircraft will arrive.
At the moment Pakistan’s Air force has a total of 63 F-16/S (45 A/Bs and 18 C/Ds). All of the A/Bs are scheduled to go through a midlife upgrade in order to become C/D aircraft. At the moment the first three of all A/Bs are undergoing the upgrade at Turkish Aero Space Industries (TAI). Rao expects that all of the aircraft will be upgraded by 2013/14. Rao added that four other F-16s were sent to the U.S for technical verification in order to develop the upgrade kits for TAI.
Pakistan is allied not only with the U.S, but also with China which allows them to produce JF-17 fighters at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra. The fighters are jointly developed by Pakistan and China.
Rao stated that since he became chief of air staff, he has put a lot of efforts in increasing Pakistan’s manufacturing capability of defensive installations. This is very important for the country’s future, because it will allow it to become independent of the sanctions and embargoes which U.S has set on it.
The 2nd squadron of JF-17s will become flyable by the end of the March and will simultaneously phase out all Nanchang A-5s ground attack aircraft which Pakistan bought from China.
According to Rao, The Chengdu F-7s and Dassault Mirages will also be replaced by the JF-17s due to the fact that these planes have aged way too much to be safe to fly and in the same time usable in modern warfare. Rao was also asked about the datalinks which will connect F-16s and JF-17s. He responded that Pakistan is working on developing its own solution for this problem. The datalink will be able to send information from the JF-17 to a ground station and from there via special interface the information will be transferred to the F-16s.
Pakistan doesn’t only have various fighter types, but also different models of early warning and control aircraft. At the moment the country has three Saab Erieye aircraft and is expected to receive a fourth one by the mid of 2011. The first Shaanxi ZDK-03 is expected to arrive in the same time. Pakistan has ordered a total of four of these aircraft. Pakistan also has major requirements for its UAVs. The Italian Selex Galileo Falco UAV are currently being used in Pakistan and the government has agreed with the company to manufacture some UAVs in Pakistan which will allow them to export them through the local market. The production of these aircraft is expected to being in 2011.