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.