Sunday, July 10, 2011

PAF Build-up

I found this interesting video (see below) of PAF - Pakistan Air Force pilots flying in Chinese Su-30 MKK.

This "exchange program" is of course partly due to the fact that China is very close to Pakistan and has for long been a key supplier of aircraft technology to PAF. But for Pakistani pilots to fly the Su-30MKK must be very interesting since one of their main opponents in case of a new war with India would be the Su-30 MKI. India and Pakistan has fought two air wars (1965 and 1971, the PAF avoided the Kargil war in 1999), and the ongoing conflict in the Kashmir is far from solved.

What do the PAF have in their arsenal to use?

- 192 x Chengdu F-7/J-7 "Skybolt". This is an good interceptor aircraft due to high sped and good climb performance. But other than that it is only an outdated Mig-21 copy. The Mig-21 was outperformed by the Mirage III during the Israel Six-Day War. F-7 will be replaced with the JF-17.

- 121 x Mirage III.

- 60 x Mirage 5. The Mirage III and 5 have been upgraded during Project ROSE. The aircraft have been fitted with flight refueling probes to train pilots before the convert to the JF-17. Most probably the newest Mirage III/5 will be in service for a number of years as an attack aircraft, but sooner or later they will also be replaced with the JF-17.

- 42 (150-300 will be delivered) x JF-17/FC-1 "Thunder". Jointly developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAC) of China, the Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The wing geometry look very F-16 to me. The fuselage have a lot in common with an ordinary Mirage. This aircraft will in the future be the backbone of PAF. The avionics in the JF-17 were supposed to be upgraded by France, but after protests from India (where France hopes to deliver Rafale fighters) the contract has been put on a hold. There are also rumors about the licence built Klimov RD-93 engines not being allowed by the Russians to be sold to other countries, which might stop export of the JF-17 to other interested countries. In the last video below there is a flight display with the JF-17. The RD-93 smokes in similar way to the RD-33 on the Mig-29. My guess is that the JF-17 will be used mainly for attack-missions with a fighter capability mainly for self defence. Se more on the forum about JF-17.

- 63 x F-16. Mixed force with old F-16A/B Block 15 and 18 x newly delivered F-16C/D Block 52. Another 14 F-16C/D Block 52 has been ordered. The old A/B will undergo MLU - Mid-Life Upgrade in Turkey. Since Turkey is a NATO allied, and the Turkish industry is working on US blue-prints to perform the MLU, the MLU could be stopped if US wants it.

- 36 x Chengdu FC-20/J-10 will be delivered in 2014-15 and maybe the contract will be for up to 150 aircraft. According to rumors it was initially based upon the Israeli Lavi design, but later Chinese knowledge of the Russian Su-27/J-11/Su-30 MKK has most probably been introduced. But the planned cooperation with western avionics industries was cancelled. This might be a big disadvantage comparing to Su-30 MKI which has state of the art avionics from French and Israeli industries. Instead Russian made avionics or Chinese improved versions have been used. See more on forum about the J-10.

Both the J-10 and the JF-17 has 1553 and 1760 databus, which will make it easier to integrate western avionics and weapons. But considering the problem Pakistan have with handling the situation in Afghanistan it is far from sure that western avionics will be available.

Against these aircraft the Indian Air Force have on the front line some 159 x SU-30 MKI (will be 272), 51 x Mirage 2000H, 69 x Mig-29, 200 x Mig-21, 147 x Mig-27 and 169 x Jaguar IS. 48 x HAL Tejas are being delivered, but are far from operational. 128 x MMRCI are under negotiation with Rafale and Eurofighter on the shortlist. 200 x FGFA (PAK-FA T-50 derivate) will be developed jointly between India and Russia.

One very interesting fact from a Swedish point of view is that the PAF is using 4 x Swedish Saab 2000 EAW (similar to the Saab 340 EAW the Thai Air Force have just made operational). These will be used together with 4 x Chinese Shaanxi ZDK-03 (Y-8F600). What kind of datalinks they will use is not easy to say. But I think that no data communication systems delivered separately by Sweden and China would be able to communicate. Instead the PAF must have integrated a system of their own. If this is the case they have a even bigger problem to solve if they want to integrate this C2 system into their F-16. The JF-17 can probably be lead by the Chinese AWACS, but to what use? The only reason would be a one-way data communication to increase situational awareness and in order to avoid Indian fighters. The J-10 in combination with the ZDK-03 could be a very good defensive force and maybe also fly top-cover for the JF-17 acting as bombers.

How long will the US support to PAF continue? The F-16 has an interesting story in Pakistan. US has for many years put Pakistan on their Military Embargo List, but the war in Afghanistan has made Pakistan an important ally in the region. The Usama Bin-Laden case has however clearly shown that Pakistan is not an ally that the US could rely on. Now when the US are withdrawing from Pakistan, the support to PAF will probably be reduced.

Altogether, about $800 million in military aid and equipment, or over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual American security assistance to Pakistan, could be affected, three senior United States officials said.

This aid includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border to combat terrorism, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in training assistance and military hardware, according to half a dozen Congressional, Pentagon and other administration officials who were granted anonymity to discuss the politically delicate matter.

Some of the curtailed aid is equipment that the United States wants to send but Pakistan now refuses to accept, like rifles, ammunition, body armor and bomb-disposal gear that were withdrawn or held up after Pakistan ordered more than 100 Army Special Forces trainers to leave the country in recent weeks.
American officials say they would probably resume equipment deliveries and aid if relations improve and Pakistan pursues terrorists more aggressively. The cutoffs do not affect any immediate deliveries of military sales to Pakistan, like F-16 fighter jets, or nonmilitary aid, the officials said.

The only thing that might make it possible for Pakistan to have future support from the US is their possibility to help stopping the war in Afghanistan. When the US forces are leaving in 2014 there need to be a stabilizing force in the region and this could very well be Pakistan, since the other option (Iran) is not an option at all for the US politicians. On the other hand, if the conflict between Pakistan and India is not solved there will be very little interest for Pakistan to solve the conflict in Afghanistan since they fear to be surrounded by countries with interest in Pakistan territory (Pashtun tribal areas and Kashmir).

Without US support, PAF will be more dependent upon China.

What makes me a bit worried is that there is a well-known absurd logic in Cold Wars. If there is equal strength, nothing will happen. If one country is much stronger than the other nothing will happen, unless there is political will to do so. But if there is equal strength and one country feels that the other may get an upper hand, this country could be forced to act otherwise it would be to late.

The PAF build-up is one reason for why the Indian Air Force is looking for new aircraft. The Su-30 MKI is a capable aircraft, but will have problems with the J-10. Especially if the PAF pilots find some weakness that they can explore.

PAF has the last years been upgrading their aircraft fleet, but numbers is not always everything. Their aircraft (with exception of J-10 and the F-16 Block 52) are a generation older in design than the Su-30 MKI. One reason for why the numerical advantage of the Indian Air Force is being reduced is the scrapping of older aircraft types. But in their place there are now modern aircraft. It will also be so in the future with the introduction of the winner of the ongoing Indian purchase (Eurofighter or Rafale) and the next 5:th generation joint Indian/Russian version of the PAK-FA T-50. I therefore still believe that PAF would be not match for the Indian Air Force as their force structure look today, no matter what the Pakistan propaganda on the Internet say. But maybe the Chinese support will continue in the future with deliveries of the J-20? Then the Pakistan vs India conflict would in all practicality be a technology test area for Russian and Chinese aircraft technology.

Pakistani pilots testing the Su-30MKK.

Propaganda video of the new PAF aircraft.

Indian TV news about the rising capability of PAF.

JF-17 display.

SvD1, SvD2, SvD3


  1. More videos of the JF-17.

  2. The Pakistan Air Force Academy (PAFA) is an accredited four-year military academy which provides undergraduate education to officer candidates for the Pakistan Air Force. Located in the town of Risalpur in Nowshera District of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan .
    Pakistan Web Online