generation fighter aircraft within the timeframe of 2025. This poses
serious challenges for the numerically smaller Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
The paper suggests UCAVs as a possible solution in countering India’s
military aviation threat to Pakistan. Pakistan can develop UCAVs in the
same manner they developed the JF-17. The argument is in favor of UCAVs
to supplement 4th generation fighters and enumerates an active and
specific solution for PAF.
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) are a category of Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles (UAVs) that are designed to fire munitions and are
characterized by increased autonomy of operation. Key attributes coupled
with UCAVs, as defined in conventional military jargon, include an
unmanned counterpart of a manned attack or fighter aircraft. This
necessitates such capabilities as range, high speeds and a significant
weapon load. Another key salient of UCAVs is the broad requirement for
UCAVs to survive engagements rather than be used in one-way kamikaze
strikes. UCAVs operational today are largely restricted to small,
lightly armed derivatives of more conventional UAVs.
UCAVs are an emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionize
air warfare. While the 5th generation of combat planes today is the
pinnacle of military aviation, UCAVs present paradigms that can
supplement if not supplant them. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who
discuss a potential 6th generation inevitably mention unmanned aircraft
as a possible key salient.
This paper focuses on UCAVs in a function as air-to-air combat vehicles
focused on air superiority missions. The paper is in exclusion of other
roles such as air-to-ground and Intelligence, Surveillance &
Reconnaissance (ISR). It is recognized that UAVs are highly effective in
both these roles and this exclusion in no way implies the belittlement
of these key aspects to UCAV and UAV technology.
The Advantages of UCAVs
Long Range Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Combat
The world is increasingly converging towards long range air-to-air
combat, not only with increasingly sophisticated radars that negate
stealth, but also AAMs like the ASRAAM and the A-Darter that provide
an improvement in range of IR-based missiles (Defense Industry Daily,
2010). Pilots engaged in BVR combat perhaps have the least value added
to combat; essentially, they monitor their sensor-suite, communicate
with controllers and then fire a missile which then takes over the task
of actually destroying the target. An F-pole style maneuver or other
similar maneuvers are limited by the G-forces that the pilots can
sustain. Dodging incoming BVR missiles, fired from enemy aircraft is
again limited by the G-forces the pilot can handle. The case for a UCAV
in this form of combat is arguably the strongest after ISR.
Short Range within Visual Range Combat:
To consider WVR combat, let us visualize what is achievable with the
state-of-the-art at present in the form of the F-35. We will later
consider how much better a UCAV can exploit these advantages than a
In a post-merge scenario where a large number of friendly and enemy
aircraft are embroiled in a dogfight, identifying friend-or-foe and
firing at a target can become both critical and yet complicated. When a
fraction of a second counts, the human pilot has to analyze his MMI and
make a quick choice. The F-35 helps this critical process by providing
an MMI that keeps track of all aircraft embroiled in the fight and
displaying them in the most user-friendly method possible.
The process sounds difficult, but is only so for a human. A computer can
analyze aircraft shapes easily. Situational awareness, whether human or
computer-enabled, allows a fighter aircraft to assign missiles for
targets as soon as a picture of the battle-space has been formed. With
HOBS missiles, the execution is relatively simple even for a less
maneuverable combat aircraft.
Another element added by the F-35 is interconnectivity or swarm logic.
Once situational awareness has been achieved by man or machine and the
fighter aircraft knows where the friends or foes are, and at the same
time can communicate with the rest of the friendly fighter aircraft who
also share the same picture of the battle-space, computers can execute
complex plays in a team format. This creates a veritable soccer match
were one side knows exactly what is going on in the entire football
field and the location of its players. As a result, they can
significantly outplay the opposing team. Such strategies may include
providing cover fire, cross fires, gambits and other game-theory based
plays. All such maneuvers can take place pre-programmed and at
speeds, G-forces and time frames not possible by human operators. Swarm
tactics have already been demonstrated by US aircraft manufacturers in
their UCAV programs (Jaquish, 2004).
Can a human operator compete? Kasparov may or may not be able to beat
Deep Blue on a given day. However, to do so while sitting in a fighter
cockpit, facing G-forces and in the time constraint of fractions of a
second, the victor becomes all too obvious.
Human operators can always be put in the loop where necessary, but a
UCAV can easily handle many tasks autonomously, and like an attack dog,
only need to be pointed at the enemy. The UCAV can take off, fly a
designated route, destroy targets and awaiting instruction or flying
back to base, dodging missiles and being fully aware of many factors
pilots often forget – being aware of status of weapons, fuel supply,
location of enemies and friendly forces, ground units and whether
weapons doors are open or closed. It can think of all this
simultaneously and do so without mistakes, under any amount of stress,
either physical or sensory.
UCAVs can be manufactured and operated at a tiny fraction of the cost of
manned fighters. Quality pilots are a rare commodity and are hard to
find, train and keep operationally ready. They also take a considerable
amount of lead-time to train effectively. Another aspect is the low
maintenance and operational costs due to not having a requirement to
constantly fly aircraft. This also means that many important systems do
not need to be as reliable or have high MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure).
After all, if the UCAV is not endangering a pilot’s life, does not fly
frequently and is cheap to manufacture, they need not be as durable.
UCAVs need only be flown during wartime or during high tension periods.
This means that their subsystems can be built more cheaply, a key cost
element particularly in combat aircraft engine technology. However, some
caution needs to be placed as to how far reliability can be compromised
as this can be a double-edged sword with accidents and mishaps also
effecting costs (Lewis, 2002).
UCAVs may also be cheaper because many expensive elements in a modern
fighter relate to the pilot. For instance, cockpit glass is an
exceedingly expensive item. Ejection seats, life support systems,
cockpit avionics and targeting systems and the sheer space, bulk and
weight savings all go to make UCAVs significantly cheaper than manned
Due to modern network centric warfare, not all UCAVs need have sensors.
Expensive AESA radars for instance can be avoided in but a few aircraft
within a “pack”. These can often be a manned fighter that orchestrates
the package, perhaps preferably a twin-seater, or even be managed by
ground controllers / radars or airborne AWACS.
A small UCAV built from an existing parts bin of spare parts can lower
costs significantly. We shall discuss further about this aspect later in
Quantity versus Quality:
Most nations including the United States and China are increasingly
fielding sharply smaller quantities of later generation fighters because
of the cost and complexity. UCAVs can be produced cheaply, at a small
fraction of the cost of modern fighters and can be mass produced for
war. As Joseph Stalin once said, quantity has a quality all its own. As
modern 5th generation aircraft increasingly resemble flying Tiger tanks,
a cheap, simple solution may just prove be the equivalent T-34
equivalent in modern warfare.
UCAVs can go into combat disregarding whether they need to come back or
not. While fighter pilots may have similar patriotism, operationally air
forces for moral and morale reasons prefer to have an exit strategy
unless in the most extreme of circumstances. UCAVs make kamikaze
strategies practical not only during desperate phases of the war but
viable from Day 1. In BVR combat, this becomes an interesting aspect as
there is always a tradeoff between the distance a fighter shoots its
missile from (and thus how effective this shot will be), and how likely
the plane is to come back intact.
This proposition is even more tenable because UCAVs may prove to be
significantly cheaper than their manned enemies and the tradeoff would
favor the UCAV operator. Most vitally, UCAVs employing such tactics
would have a drastic impact on the enemy’s psychology. The Rand
Corporation expresses this doctrine best in the following words:
Aerospace power will tend to perform best when the desired outcome
involves affecting adversary behavior rather than seizing and holding
The Disadvantages of UCAVs
Tackling the Problem of Jamming:
One of the first responses to proposals for UCAVs is whether they will
be able to communicate in the event of jamming by the enemy. When we
discuss UCAVs, we often have the image of a Predator operator sitting in
some trailer guiding the plane and wonder what would happen to the
Predator if that link was lost. The first element to consider is that
today’s Air-to-Ground based UAVs such as the Predator need a high
proportion of the human element because of the vagaries of today’s COIN
and CAS operations. High bandwidth data transfer such as video streaming
is assumed to be an integral part of UAV operation. This does not have
to be true for UCAVs. Identifying friend-or-foe can be significantly
easier in an air-to-air battle, particularly with mature IFF
technologies. This is true particularly in a Pakistan-India scenario,
where the direction of enemy inbound fighters is well known and the
environment is best described as sensor rich.
The end result is that, a highly autonomous UCAV will not need constant
connectivity but will need to be assigned a task and given instructions
for post-task completion. For instance, if after destroying enemy
aircraft no other enemy aircraft are found in the vicinity and no
instructions are forthcoming from friendly forces, the UCAV may simply
be programmed to return to base. In case of fear of electronic warfare
incapacitating or overriding the UCAV, a controller may pre-program the
UCAV to not accept signals from a specified time period forward. To
accomplish the given mission and either go back to base or move to a
specific geographical area deep inside Pakistani territory and receive
specific directional signals for further instructions.
In this scenario, a UCAV can still be jammed from being operationally
effective, but manned aircraft will suffer to the same extent as the
UCAV. Even a 5th generation aircraft without AWACS or other auxiliary
support will be vulnerable. Another point is that modern communications,
even Link 16 is exceedingly hard to jam. Directional communication
links are also increasingly mature and near ideal for UCAV use.
Despite all the advantages of a UCAV, the human element cannot be fully
substituted, whether one with Artificial Intelligence (AI-UCAV) or a
more conventional model. There will always be an opportunity for a
fighter pilot to think outside the box. This will continue to remain a
weakness of UCAVs. Carlo Kopp mentions the two ideological extremes in
UCAV literature, one looking at UCAVs as a “dumb RPV” while the other
trying to build a James Cameron’s “Terminator” and suggests a moderate
approach between them may be most appropriate (Kopp, 2001).
Reasons Why the West is Being Held Back
Many technology choices made by the United States and her allies are not
based on merit alone but are made because of political reasons. USAF
officers for instance, would not like UAVs to take over jobs of their
pilots. An example is the Congressional deadline for the USAF to field a
third of its force as UAVs by 2010 (Jaquish, 2004). The USAF considered
a Predator that can fire its own missile a bad idea and this was not
overturned until the CIA used them with great success. Even when forced
to fly UAVs, they have insisted on using pilots to fly the UAVs. The US
Army proved otherwise when they began using NCOs instead. Another
glaring example of the organizational hubris of the US armed services is
in their Joint Vision 2020. There is not one mention of UAVs or UCAVs,
nor a single picture of one in a paper that has over 50 images of tanks,
submarines, fighter jets, warships, transports and refugee camps
William Lewis (Lewis, 2002) also complains about the long lead times in
acquisition and procurement within the US armed services.
This bias in the USAF and perhaps in other Western air forces is a key
reason for why UAVs in general and UCAVs in particular, have not made
breakthroughs in the scale anticipated with technologies now available.
History has shown that it often takes a major shock in the form of a war
to change perceptions, as was seen in WWI, WWII and to a lesser extent
the subsequent wars up to Gulf War II. What we do know is that the
people closest to knowing the feasibility of technology in building
operational UCAVs are putting their money in this technology. Boeing,
Northrop Grumman and General Atomics have spent their own hard cash in
researching and developing new UCAVs without formal requests or interest
from the USAF.
The Technology behind UCAVs
The technology for fielding real UCAVs has many critical areas that are
already proven and mature. Many of the technologies are in fact only
waiting to be integrated together. Consider the example of autopilot
computers that can now takeoff, fly to a destination and land a
commercial aircraft. This technology is operational in the commercial
airline industry and is considered mature today. Pilots can merely take
control when something untoward happens and requires out-of-the-box
An American Global Hawk today can take off, fly around the world,
accomplish its ISR mission and come back to base making a perfect
landing, with no manual input. A JSF is being designed with the ability
to visually track a large number of targets, identify and categorize
them without any human input. Modern missiles can defeat maneuvering
fighters by employing multiple tactics, even being able to come back in
case it missed the designated aircraft in its first pass. Again, all
this is accomplished without input from a human.
Diffusion of Technology Worldwide:
The technology to build manned fighter aircraft has traditionally
remained within a handful of nations such as Russia, USA, China, France,
Sweden and the United Kingdom. This monopoly of technology has been a
major issue particularly vis-à-vis the West and the Rest of the World.
UAV and UCAV technology on the other hand, has been far more diffused
throughout the world. Smaller countries and countries with little
previous record of aircraft manufacture, such as Israel, Austria, Italy,
Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey, among others are making
significant contributions. For instance, Camcopter, a product by a
small, hitherto unknown Austrian company Siebel, has sold a large number
of its UAVs including over 80 to the UAE (Wezeman, 2007). What is even
more interesting is that a number of parts will be manufactured by such
an unknown as the UAE Research and Technology Center. It may also be
noted that even within the US military-industrial complex, it is General
Atomics as opposed to Boeing or Lockheed Martin that has stolen the
lead. From these examples and a number of others, the technology behind
UCAVs is realizable by firms outside of the traditional countries and
corporations that had earlier dominated military aviation. The UAV
industry is by all indications Schumpeterian and remains wide open to
any country or company.
Golden Opportunity to Pull Ahead:
If the Pakistan Air Force can do better and avoid institutional and
political barriers that the West is plagued with, they can make a
relative leap in capabilities and meet their goals and objectives far
better than a linear and asymmetric solution could. Pakistan has
achieved a significant milestone with the JF-17. With a UCAV, Pakistan
will have achieved the next major milestone. Pakistan’s aircraft
manufacturing industry would remain relevant rather than become outdated
and relegated to obsolescence. Pakistan does not have the technology or
the resources to build an expensive and complex 5th generation plane. A
UCAV however, is a far more achievable goal. As we shall see later, the
technologies involved allow far greater flexibility and can be said
almost ideally suited to Pakistan’s military-industrial complex’s
Pakistan’s Threat Scenario 2025
Before considering an active solution and the technologies relevant to
that solution, it may be helpful to first consider the threat scenario
for Pakistan. A 15 year forward plan may be relevant to our discussion.
This is based on the perceived change in the quality of the threat in
Pakistan’s neighborhood in that timeframe and allocates time to field a
response for Pakistan’s aeronautical industries.
India will begin to field PAKFA fighter jets from Russia and may also
develop her own from technology bought from the Russians. While the
latter may be discounted as another employment opportunity for DRDO and
related third-rate Indian bureaucracies, PAKFA and any specific design
built for India by the Russians will provide a challenge that would be
wholly new to the subcontinent: a 5th generation fighter. Further, it
may not be farfetched to imagine a JSF purchase for the IAF, given the
blossoming long-term partnership developing between India and the United
While the credentials for the JSF are still unclear and the jury may be
out on its air-to-air combat capabilities, the PAKFA is a clear threat.
The PAKFA was designed to counter the F-22 in air combat. The threat is
perhaps best defined as reasonable stealth, super cruise, high altitude
and high speed. The PAKFA takes BVR combat to a new level that the
airframe of the JF-17, by design, cannot compete with. BVR missiles
launched from a high-high profile aids missile range and speed, and
reduces the threat, range and effectiveness of Pakistani BVR launches in
response. With AWACs and refuelers in the sky, such threats would be a
menace, particularly with longer ranged BVR missiles from Russia.
A major political and geo-strategic to consider is the War on Terror
(WOT) in Afghanistan may be winding down by then and aid from the United
States and other Western countries are likely to dry up. Pakistan’s
Afghanistan leverage vis-à-vis the international community could be
drastically reduced. In a worst case scenario, sanctions may once again
be imposed in one form or another.
By 2025, India could field PAKFAs and perhaps even JSFs in the hundreds,
drastically changing the military balance in the Subcontinent. Pakistan
can either go bankrupt attempting to counter this new threat or she can
become obsolete, back to a decade similar to the 1990s. Or Pakistan can
In the next section of this paper we consider UCAVs as a solution to Pakistan’s air defense needs.
Possible UCAV solutions for Future Air Combat
Establishing a requirement first requires the establishment of a
doctrine. This is a critical weakness for the European Union were
divergent needs are hard to align and researchers often have to work on
the basis of practicality (Freitas, et al., 2009). As concerns PAF,
there is a clear threat scenario and easier possibilities of
establishing a doctrine. Based on an outlined doctrine, we can consider a
number of possible UCAV solutions for the PAF in tackling the future
threat scenario of an Indian PAKFA and other possible 5th generation
Let us start with a quick recap of possible strategies. The general
approach has been to counter India’s provocative procurements on a
largely symmetric basis. Increasing number of manned fighter jets have
been reciprocated by increases in Pakistan’s inventory of manned jets.
Purchase of AEW assets have been matched by an equivalent purchase.
Nuclear tests were responded to with equivalent nuclear tests as were
ballistic missile tests. However, this asymmetry is increasingly
impractical because of differing size and economic development between
the two countries.
Meanwhile, India is now slated to acquire a large number of 5th
generation planes in a 50-50 partnership with the Russians. Instead of
attempting to break the bank and procure increasingly complex (and
expensive) 5th generation fighters with the added exponential increase
in maintenance and other operational costs, a solution may be to respond
Two possible scenarios appear within a broad asymmetric strategy –
positive asymmetry or negative asymmetry. Examples of implementing a
negative asymmetric scenario against an IAF fielding significant numbers
of 5th generation fighters would be to push back defenses further away
from the border, rely more on LR-SAMs and resort to hardening major
assets against the inevitable.
A strategy of positive asymmetry is also possible. This would imply
responding asymmetrically but in a more proactive, aggressive and
positive manner. This paper will outline such a strategy. As an example
of such a strategy, Pakistan can choose to skip the 5th generation
concepts and move towards combining the most practical of the 3rd, 4th
and 5th generation with concepts deriving from the 6th generation; a
simplified UCAV to supplement PAF’s 4+ generation fighters. This
approach will not be unique. Japan for instance, may choose to skip the
5th Generation concept with its i3 fighter concept (Perrett, 2010).
A Practical UCAV for Pakistan
The attempt forward will be to propose a solution in the form of a UCAV
for the PAF. We will first focus on some basic parameters that need to
be fulfilled. The focus will then shift to defining a specific solution
that meets those requirements in a most balanced manner.
We identify the following characteristics as imperative for the discussed UCAV solution:
1. Unmanned Platform
2. Simple construction and achievable technology
3. Simplified single-engine buildable in Pakistan
4. Relatively Low Cost
5. Economy and asymmetry in sensor load
6. Using parts bin of existing aircraft and from industry partners
7. Designed for high altitude, high speed f-pole BVR combat
8. Structure can operate in and sustain high G-forces
9. Artificial Intelligence
10. Network centric
11. Swarm & Group Tactics
12. Low Observable
13. Combat Air Patrol efficiency
14. Interceptor suitability
next. For purposes of this paper, the designation used will be J-UCAV or
Joint UCAV, assuming a partnership at least with China, if not with
other countries such as Turkey, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, South
Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Iran, Italy, and more. The proposed solution
is in the form of a well-swept delta, single-engine UCAV.
The X-47 Pegasus is a design that broadly appears suitable for
Pakistan’s requirements. The design features a simple, single engine,
well-swept, diamond-shaped delta. The large delta provides low
wing-loading, ideal for high altitude flight and maneuverability. The
high sweep mitigates the delta’s drag, allowing a classic high-high
aerodynamic profile to counter the PAKFA. Inherent structural integrity
of the diamond-shape delta simplifies construction and allows the design
to be strengthened for high G-forces at a smaller weight and cost penalty.
While a tailless design appears most efficient in terms of drag and RCS,
developing a maneuverable fighter may prove problematic and high-risk
from the perspective of keeping the project within the meager budget and
time constraint of the PAF. A proportionately small twin tail is
proposed instead (not illustrated). This twin tail may or may not be
supplemented by thrust vectoring. Developmentally, this suggests a safer
choice and allows greater control authority.
in acquisition and maintenance. As discussed earlier, since UCAVs do
not need to fly frequently because of pilot training requirements and
has to maintain a simple, cost effective solution. Simplicity of design
and manufacture is important since the J-UCAV must be built in, and
afforded by Pakistan.
The J-UCAV design proposed in this paper makes the hypothetical
assumption of using an RD-93 or a WS-13 / WS-12 size engine. Taking a
standard fighter aircraft engine as the benchmark can help allow the
program to use the engine parts bin of an existing system. Assuming the
stringent requirements for metallurgy, advanced composites and other
advanced materials and manufacture processes can be relaxed, degraded or
substituted to an extent, the UCAV engine can then perform adequately
in the same thrust range with the tradeoff of degraded MTBF and
reliability in lieu of low cost and simplicity.
A problem faced by a high-sweep delta design is poor CAP performance.
This problem exists because of higher cruise speed as a result of sweep
and greater drag because of delta wings. The solution proposed thus
compromises our CAP requirements. To alleviate this issue and allow the
J-UCAV better CAP performance, one possible solution is using
non-movable, disposable canards. The reasoning behind such a solution is
explainable as a fighter does not need to pull high Gs while on CAP,
nor does it need to fly particularly fast. In fact, the slower and
higher it can fly the better. Such flight profiles allow a balanced
tradeoff between fuel efficiency and endurance, on the one hand, and
potential kinetic energy from the high altitude profile. Adding high
aspect ratio disposable canards can help slow and high flight profiles.
In case of a threat, the fighter can dispose its canards in-flight and
The diagram indicates possible locations for such canards. The canards
may be added to the wing tips and / or forward of the wings. In the
latter case, one anticipated issue is of clearance during disposal;
avoiding the disposed canards from hitting the airframe. Some possible
solutions are listed below:
2. Building the forward disposable canards with light composite
material and coating them with softer material to avoid damage in case
of accidental collision.
3. Carefully planning disposal flight profile. For instance, a high
angle-of-attack release profile, particularly possible with thrust
vectoring, may allow seamless separation.
DSI intakes may also be incorporated to decrease RCS, increase
performance, and reduce weight and costs. A possible improvement to DSI
intake design that PAF, PAC Kamra and Chengdu engineers can look into
may be a variable DSI. At first glance, this sounds contradictory given
that DSI intakes are meant to supplant variable intake designs. However,
a DSI bump that can enlarge or contract using pneumatic, hydraulic or
other mechanisms can improve flight performance in a wide variety of
flight profiles. These can possibly be significantly cheaper and lighter
than more traditional variable inlet designs and simultaneously be
stealthier. However, given Pakistan’s budget constraints, any J-UCAV
program should not be stalled because of risky technology choices and
men better qualified than this author can perhaps decide better whether
to pursue such technologies.
Using off-the-shelf parts from existing platforms can reduce such
development risks further and reduce costs and time. The F-117 program
is testament to the usefulness of this strategy. The approach can be
extended to the maximum possible parts from the JF-17 and Chinese combat
aircraft, UAVs and UCAVs. A UCAV designed around an RD-93-class engine
can possibly use a large number of subsystems from the JF-17; the
landing gear is a possible example.
Other technology choices for the J-UCAV may include a 360 degree sensor
suite similar to the F-35 and asymmetric sensor payloads. The latter
implies that only a portion of the UCAVs / manned aircraft in a pack
will have expensive systems such as AESA radars installed. Others will
be more dispensable missile careers. This strategy is sometimes referred
to as cloud shooting (Perrett, 2010) and is similar in concept to naval
engagements. The Japanese concept is illustrated and shows relevance to
our strategy with the exception that instead of 6th generation manned
fighters guiding UCAV swarms, 4th generation fighters available to PAF
may provide the equivalent UCAV guidance authority.
Given the ability today of remotely launching AAMs and the highly sensor
rich environment over Pakistani air space in the time-frame of
deployment, such auxiliaries would provide cheap force multipliers for
Pakistan. There is some discussion among observers that at least some of
PAF’s Mirage and F-7 fleets have been upgraded in a similar manner to
launch BVR missiles using input from external sensors through the C4I
network. While there is doubt about the feasibility and usefulness of
maintaining older jets in this role with due consideration to pilot
training and maintenance costs, J-UCAVs would provide ideal substitutes
and appear to be perfect platforms for this role.
In the Grande Strategic view, PAF can use large numbers of J-UCAVs as a
cheap and ideal counter for IAF and any other air force that seeks to
undermine Pakistani airspace. They could form a picket line that are the
first to deal with enemies and are reinforced with manned fighters
where necessary. Such J-UCAVs would require very low maintenance, near
zero training costs and may be cheap enough to not worry about being put
outside hardened shelters, a valued commodity for PAF. Armed with 2
BVRs and 2 WVRs, J-UCAVs could prove to become the foot soldier of the
skies, lightly armed and yet overwhelming in their numbers.
UCAVs are an emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionize
air warfare. While the 5th generation of combat planes is today the
pinnacle of military aviation, UCAVs present paradigms that can
supplement if not supplant manned fighters of the 4th and 5th
generations. People who discuss a potential 6th generation inevitably
mention unmanned aircraft as a likely salient. Unlike the 5th generation
of aircraft that are extremely expensive and complex to build and
maintain UCAVs provide the potential of finding an equivalent solution
with significant reduction in complexity and cost.
The PAF has until now not considered UCAVs in the air-to-air role. With
the systematic addition of net-centric warfare with platforms such as
Erieye, ZDK03, ground radars, future planned communication satellite and
the necessary middleware for a superior C4I, Pakistan has managed to
transform the battle environment to one were UCAVS can multiply the
effectiveness and flexibility of the entire air defense system.
While nations struggle to keep their 4th generation aircraft operational
and can barely dream about 5th generation solutions, UCAVs provide an
interesting paradigm shift that cannot be ignored by those entrusted
with the defense of their nations and peoples. For some like Pakistan,
UCAVs may be the only realistic way to counter a large number of PAKFAs
and possibly other 5th generation planes sitting across the border in
belligerent India, whose stalwarts dream about “cold starts” and
“surgical strikes”, and are only kept at bay by the strength of arms and
the courage of the Pakistani soldier; whether on land, in the depths of
the seas, or up high over the towering mountains and skies above.