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PAF s' Specials
Interview: Chief of the Air Staff, ACM (Retd) Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed

Interview appeared on Daily Jang Newspaper. Translated by Sarmad.

Q 1:
Would the new Pakistani F-16s would be performing with a handicap or limitations after the American concerns of the use of F-16s by Pakistan?

A: There are no handicaps or limitations following the use of the latest F-16C/D Block-52 as well as F-16A/B MLU Fighting Falcons, imposed by the US authorities. PAF can use these aircraft against any target whenever and wherever it wants to. PAF is totally independent in deploying these aircraft against all sorts of targets, in both defensive and offensive roles. All US suspicions are cleared.

Q 2: Can you explain that why a US team of experts will also accompany these aircraft in Pakistan?

A: This is not a new thing. In 1961, a US team of experts accompanied the 12 F-104A Starfighters. Again in 1983, a team accompanied the F-16A/B Fighting Falcons. Similarly French and Chinese team of experts have also accompanied aircrafts of the origin of their countries for the discussion about technical and maintenance details, initially when Mirage III, F-6, F-7MP and F-7PG were inducted. The only thing which US do not want is that Pakistan does not transfer the technology of the new Falcons to a third country, especially China.

Q 3: What are your remarks about the new F-16C/D Block-52 Advanced Vipers?

A: I am impressed by these new breed of Fighting Falcons. I’m confident that these aircraft along with the MLU F-16A/Bs will bolster PAF’s capabilities and would balance the technological gap of the airforces in the Sub-Continent. F-16C/D Block-52 is relatively larger, will have enhanced fuel capacity, better engine, powerful radar, better avionics, better payload carrying capacity and range than the earlier versions. Apart from that the aircraft will have night vision, sophisticated targeting pods, ability to carry smart weapons, latest BVR weapons (AIM-120C AMRAAM) and latest Sidewinder missiles and latest sophisticated PGMs and ASMs. These aircraft will provide all weather day/night capability to hit targets in air, land and sea. Their would be very minimum set up for these as well as upgraded Falcons as Pakistan already has facilities and ground support equipment for the F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Q 4: How do you compare Pakistan Airforce with Indian Airforce?

A: In the present scenario, the role of Pakistan Airforce is to ensure peace in the region and to defend Pakistan from all sorts of aggression. The ratio between PAF and IAF is still the same 1:3 in IAF’s favor. India also enjoys the marvels of latest technology more than Pakistan. Though our F-16A/B Block-15s are still considered as a major threat along the other side of the border, IAF is constantly adding latest and sophisticated aircraft n their arsenal as well as upgrading their old aircraft to meet the requirements of the air warfare arena of today. Practically speaking, PAF even today has the capability to counter any sort of IAF’s aggression but if we won’t take any necessary steps for our modernization in the coming 5-7 years, IAF will go way ahead from us. The balance of power will shift in their favor so much that it would virtually impossible to cope up with them at that time.

Q 5: Is PAF inducting the Swedish Erieye AEW&C system along with SAAB-2000 aircraft from Sweden? If so, then when will they enter service?

A: Affirmative! Pakistan is ready to receive the Swedish Erieye AEW&C systems and Inshallah these systems will enter service in 2009. These radar systems will be used to gather important information and forward it to our Command and Control System, which is linked to the ground radar systems. Thus important information can be forwarded to the Command Operations Center in no time.

Q 6: What are measures taken for this system to be compatible with PAF fighters?

A: All the combat aircraft in PAF’s inventory will be linked to the Erieye system by a data link. New as well as upgraded F-16s, F-10A and JF-17 Thunders are equipped with data links. We are moving towards Network Strategic Warfare, and for that we have worked out on a plan for the modernization of Pakistan Airforce.

Q 7: Is Pakistan interested in purchasing an aerial refueling system? If true how will PAF utilize this air asset? There is unconfirmed news that Pakistan is considering Ukrainian aerial refueling systems. Is this true?

A: Correct! PAF is inducting four Russian origin aircraft equipped with aerial refueling systems from Ukraine. This will enhance defensive and offensive capabilities i.e. PAF’s deep strike capability as well as endurance for long CAP and BARCAP missions. Basically our major aim is to provide a complete aerial refueling system for our JF-17 Thunders which will form our backbone in near future.

Q 8: Will Pakistan be inducting Chinese KJ-2000 system?

A: China is our most sincere friend and in the previous decades, China has excelled in the aircraft development industry and has always offered us frontline equipment with the best package available. Hence we will consider our policies, revise our modernization program and will consider this system to be inducted in our air arsenal along with Erieye System.

Q 9: What are the options available for PAF to enhance its fleet, and what new fighter types are expected to join PAF in the next five years?

A: As I have mentioned earlier, we are keeping all available options open and wants a well balanced multirole jet fighter aircraft. We will be inducting 18 new F-16C/Ds and most probably will use our option of 18 more after the first squadron will be operational. We will also be inducting 26 MLU F-16A/B as well as our existing fleet of 34 aircraft will also undergo the MLU upgrades. 150 JF-17 Thunders and 36 F-10A aircraft will also be joining PAF, and more F-10s can be expected. Most probably we will also purchase FC-20 fighter aircraft from China.

Q 10: Is acquiring aircraft from Europe won’t be more feasible?

A: In my opinion every option has some special features. We have studied all available options in details. Our main priorities are totally clear in front of the media i.e. Multirole Fighters, High Tech Airborne Radars, BVR Capability and Weapons, Top of the line Weapon Systems and Electronic Warfare Suites. We want to acquire all these things within our resources, and these things in the European market are quite expensive.

Q 11: How can you compare F-16 and Su-30?

A: These aircraft can be compared in many ways. Su-30 MKI has powerful radar but it can be detected by the AEW&C systems and the F-16s will thus be aware of its presence. Apart from that both aircraft can carry latest weapon systems. Su-30 MKI has the capacity to carry heavy loads and more fuel but this can be countered with the help of AAR. In the same manner Chinese F-10A is also an excellent platform in countering this threat and can carry heavier loads than the F-16.

Q 12: How can we compare F-16 with F-10A and F-18?

A: Similarly as I have done it above.

Q 13: If you are given the authority to induct an aircraft for the PAF, which aircraft will you prefer regarding the resources available?

A: The western world has a huge variety of high tech aircraft in which I personally like Typhoon, Grippen, Rafale and FA-18/E. But either these aircraft are expensive or political factors poses some hurdles in their procurement. You would probably understand that their procurement is a sensitive matter hence to be practical and modest F-16C/D or F-16E/F will be my choice.

Q 14: Initially Pakistan wanted to induct JAS-39 Grippen or Mirage-2000. Will PAF still go for either any of these aircraft, if not then why didn’t this deal materialize?

A: We have carried out a detailed series of tests and evaluation on these aircraft and after all the tests were conducted, F-16 was considered as the best due to many reasons.

Q 15: As you know that the Mirage 2000-9 fighter aircraft was released for the sale to Pakistan. Do you still have any contacts with Dassault for this matter?

A: Yes, but not for the Mirage 2000-9 but for our own Mirage series of fighter bombers.

Q 16: Is this a reality that Thrust Vectoring technology gives an edge in air to air combat? PAF does not possess this technology whereas IAF possess it.

A: Thrust Vectoring is an added capability in turning dogfights and close combat, but since the air war of today mostly is fought beyond visual range and effective medium to short range missile coupled with HMS, it’s importance has declined. Thrust vectoring can be effective in evading a missile, either BVR or SAM.

Q 17: How will you compare JF-17 with India’s LCA Tejas, Israeli IAI Kfir and Iranian latest jet fighter?

A: JF-17 is a fourth generation aircraft, and much more capable than IAI Kfir and Iranian jet fighter. JF-17 can fight any fourth generation fighter and give it either a tough fight or outclass it by using latest tactics of air warfare. Mash Allah, JF-17’s development has taken a lightening pace whereas India is facing problems in LCA Tejas’ development. JF-17’s capabilities are well known by the media whereas LCA Tejas’ capabilities are yet to be revealed.

Q 18: Can you please provide a comparison between the BVR capabilities of Su-30 and Mirage-2000?

A: This is basically a comparison between Russian and French BVR technology. Both are different in performance as well as prices but unlike American BVR missiles, both Russian and French BVR missile are not COMBAT PROVEN.

Q 19: Can you please inform us about Pakistani PGM capabilities?

A: We have top of the range PGM capability, which comprises of both imported as well as domestic weapons.

Q 20: Can you please tell us that how much money does PAF will require in its modernization program which includes, development of new fighter aircraft, induction of new aircraft and systems and upgradation of old aircraft?

A: We will be requiring at least 8-10 Billion Dollars, but since we do not want to put a strain on our economy, our modernizaion program would be completed in 6-8 years starting from now.

Q 21: What are the measures which you will take for the PAF to make it a formidable fihting force?

A: Our targets for modernization should be fullfilled within the time i.e. 6-8 years. We are including AEW and AAR in our fleet as well as gradually replacing old aircraft with new aircraft.

Q 22: Pakistan is going for F-16s. After 5 years their won't be any room left for the upgradation of F-16C/D whereas F-16 MLU will already been upgraded and cannot be upgraded further. Why Pakistan is not going for JAS-39C Grippen, in which their is room for upgradation of aircraft as well SAAB has agreed to transfer the technology to Pakistan?

A: As i have mentioned earlier, latest upgradation, airborne equipment and weapon system can increase the lethality of the aircraft. New variants are certainly different from their older counterparts. As far as transfer of technology is concerned, to tell you the truth, we are not in a state of handle extremely high technology used in JAS-39 Grippen, as we don't have the bases of aerial technogy.

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