Pakistan Air-Force set to revive its fleet: 190 Aircrafts to be replaced by 2020

Dunya News

Pakistan Air Force all set to revitalize its wings

Dunya News Report (Talha Ul Huda)

In March 2016, the United States senate shot down the motion of refusing the sale of the new block-52 F-16 aircrafts to Pakistan. This motion was raised by a sitting senator and former presidential candidate Rand Paul, under the ‘arms control act’. The motion was defeated 71-24. A few weeks prior to this motion, the Obama administration had stated that it would proceed with the $700 million deal with Pakistan as it was vital for Pakistan’s on-going war against insurgency.

Pakistan Air force has played a key-role in the war against terrorism in recent times. PAF holds a fleet of 374 aircrafts as of now, out of which 295 are fighter aircrafts including the American supplied and administered F16’s, JF-17 thunders designed by Pakistani-Chinese coalition, Dassault 5 Mirages which are re-built at the Mirage Rebuild Factories (MRF) complex, Kamra, F-7 fighter aircrafts purchased from Sweden (due to retire), and a few fleets of the training aircrafts T-37 Cessna and PAC MFI-17 Mushhak.

The PAF also has an operational transport wing which boasts a fleet of 65 aircrafts including the German C-130 Hercules (deemed the most stable transport aircraft in aviation history), Ilyushin-78 jet-propulsion mass transport aircrafts purchased in 2009, CASA twin engine Hercules transport aircraft purchased from Spain amongst a number of air-liners purchased for personnel transport such as the Antonov (USSR) and the very recent purchase of SAAB, which is also operated for Air Defense reconnaissance operations and other clandestine purposes.

On March 26th, 2016, gracing the PAF academy Risalpur at the graduation ceremony of 300 officers, the Turkish Chief of Air Staff General Abidin Unal presented the PAF with 34 T-37 training aircrafts, as gifts to mark the strength of the Pak-Turk friendship.

The PAF has faced a lot of criticism for its continual use of Mirages. These aircrafts have been due to retire for a decade but the MRF has made consistent efforts to re-equip and rejuvenate the aircrafts.

According to statistical reports, 21 of these aircrafts have crashed due to technical errors in the past decade killing 36 PAF personnel, notably the base commander of a strategically important airbase in Shorkot, southern Punjab, Air Commodore Shafqat Mushtaq.

These are not isolated incidents; PAF has fallen prey to technical incompatibility several times in its history. The most highlighted air crash in the PAF history was in 2003, when the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir amongst other senior PAF officials died as their Fokker transport aircraft plummeted into the hills near Kohat, KPK. After this tragic incident, the PAF administration decided to retire the Fokker aircrafts on directives of the then President and COAS General Pervez Musharraf.

Another notable incident of technical incompetency is when in 1973, a C-130 aircraft carrying more than 150 PAF personnel crashed, killing everyone on-board. A technical error was discovered to be the cause in the investigations following the incident.

President General Zia-Ul-Haq also died in a C-130 crash in 1988, but the circumstances are still unclear as there are speculations of explosives being planted on the aircraft to kill the president.

The 2020 mandate of the aircrafts being replaced has been welcomed amongst defense and political circles. The Defense Minister Khwaja Asif, on his visit to the Air Headquarters, Islamabad, commented that the Pakistan Air Force is an organization of out-standing professional history and its contributions to the war against terrorism are commendable. He further added that PAF’s up-gradation plans are vital to Pakistan’s defense against foreign and local threats.