Table 1: Exercises in which PAF participated since 2005.
In all these exercises, the PAF pilots have flown with the world’s highly advanced combat aircraft which include USAF’s F-15 & F-22, French Air Force’s Rafale, Italian Air Force’s Eurofighter-2000, UAEAF F-16 Block60 and Mirage-2000-9, RSAF F-15C, PLAAF Su-27SK and various blocks of F-16 from TUAF, RJAF and USAF. Apart from interaction with military aviation professionals, these exercises gave the PAF an opportunity to learn from the experience of other fighting forces.
Exercise High Mark is the biggest national exercise conducted every five years to assess the operational readiness of PAF. In High Mark 2010, the PAF not only demonstrated its network-centric capabilities, but also conducted Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Within Visual Range (WVR) air combat missions, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), close support, air-to-air refuelling and strategic airlift missions.
In late 2010, Pakistan acquired Electronic Warfare Tactical Training Range (EWTTR) from Turkey. This range located 31 miles (50kms) from Mushaf Airbase, Sargodha was made operational in early 2011. It has been used to monitor various fighter squadrons competing against each other in a simulated electronic warfare combat. This range provides much electronic warfare combat, anti-radar and radar-avoiding techniques to the pilots. Another range named Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) is also present at Sargodha, where pilots learn the lessons of modern day air combat and fly against aggressor units of Combat Commanders School (CCS). Both of these ranges complement each other by providing simulated air combat and electronic warfare training platform to pilots.
While the prices of fighter aircraft and necessary equipment from the West were going sky high, the only solution for PAF was to hold the Chinese helping hand. After analysing JS-39 Gripen, Rafale and Eurofighter, the PAF decided to pick the Chinese card by going for J-10 Vanguard Multirole aircraft. The initial plan was to buy 36 J-10A and equip fighter squadrons as early as possible. As India delayed the results of MMRCA, the PAF had no choice but to allow its adversary to decide first. During these years, Chengdu developed much proficient version of J-10 named J-10B. J-10B (named FC-20 for PAF) will provide deep strike capability, greater range and air combat capabilities to PAF. The aircraft will be equipped with IRST, modern day BVRs, Precision Guided Munitions (PGM), Anti-Shipping Missile (ASM) and Anti-Radar Missiles (ARM). Induction of up to 50 FC-20 will complement the JF-17, F-7PG, F-16 MLU and F-16 Block52 fleet. The deployment of IL-78 Airborne Aerial Refuelling (AAR) platform will enhance range and strike radius of both JF-17 and FC-20 aircraft.
The counter MMRCA strategy of PAF also includes up-gradation of network centric capabilities by the procurement of ZDK-03 and Saab-2000 AEW&C systems. One out of four ZDK-03 is already delivered to PAF while the other will be received in mid-2012. Three out of four Saab-2000 AEW&C are in service with PAF, the fourth and the last one will be received this year. These two types of AWACS will provide strategic edge to both Western and Chinese origin aircraft in PAF’s inventory.
Rafale will be the mainstay of IAF in future. To deny the Indian air superiority in the region, PAF has to remain vigilant and continue with its diligent efforts for impregnable defence of the country.
Looking at the aforementioned procurement and squadrons re-equipment plans it is evident that PAF has invested great time and effort in implementing the counter-MMRCA strategy. This will make an efficient and hard hitting air force…an air force that will augment the defence of Pakistan and make PAF second to none among the world’s best fighting forces.