After Balakot humiliation, PAF ramps up its modernization drive, a threat for IAF?

In the wake of the nasty surprise that was Balakot, when Indian Air Force fighters went deep into Pakistan, blew up a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp, and returned without even being challenged, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is looking at increasing its manpower, improving its infrastructure and buying new weapons.

By Harkirpal Singh, Updated : Mar 10, 2021 11:01 IST
After Balakot humiliation, PAF ramps up its modernization drive, a threat for IAF?
Pakistan Airforce

According to recent reports, Pakistan Airforce, which is the world's 6th largest airforce, is going through a massive modernization drive to counter the world's 4th largest airforce i.e Indian Airforce (IAF). Apart from modernization and procurement of new platforms, PAF is also inducting more personnel to maintain a high pilot-to-aircraft ratio.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is looking at a huge increase in personnel, of about 6,400, including civilians. This includes about 400 officers and 4,000 men.

And this comes despite a gradual increase of 5,000 personnel between 2014 and February 2019, when the IAF struck Balakot. The increase from 2014 figures in a hefty ten percent. From less than a lakh, the PAF will go up to over 110,000 personnel. 

The biggest purchase planned by the PAF is more Airborne Warning and Control Systems or AWACS, or planes with radars on them to ensure the air-defense system is on the alert when planes enter Pakistan air space.

These very expensive eyes in the sky should ensure that there’s at least knowledge of an intrusion. In two cases– the US operation in Abbottabad to kill terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the Balakot strike, Pakistan got to know and acted too late.

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The PAF also wants 19 multi-role radars and some mobile observation units. Once again, this is an effort to increase the ability to detect intruders. An airbase in Skardu will be upgraded from a forward operating base to a main operating base.

This comes after the PAF established a new base in Bholari, near Karachi, in 2017.  A center of excellence is likely to be built as well. The increase in strength will be in operational and air-defense capabilities, clearly weak areas, considering what happened in Abbottabad and Balakot.  

In addition to all of this, Turkey & Pakistan signed an agreement on the supply of 30 T-129 ATAK helicopters, which became the largest contract in Turkish history for a one-time export supply of military products. The deal costed $1.5 B,

The TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform. The T129 was developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with partner AgustaWestland. The helicopter is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environments and rough geography in both day and night conditions.

 For the information of the readers, we would like to tell--for a very long time, PAF maintain an edge of IAF in its BVR (Beyond-Visual-Range) capabilities, Pakistan's F-16s have been armed with AIM-120 AMRAAM BVR missiles with a range of more than 100 Km, whereas IAF didn't have any missile that can hit targets up to that range. 

However, after the induction of Rafale, IAF gained a significant edge over PAF as IAF Rafale aircraft are armed with Meteor BVR missiles which provide a range of 150 Km. Not only does the rafale has better BVR capabilities, the aircraft also has better avionics and sensors which provide massive protection against any incoming missiles as well.

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It has been reported that in order to counter one Rafale, PAF would have to send at least 2 F-16s of the Block 52 variant. So in order to make sure that PAF is not outgunned by IAF, Islamabad has planned to induct PL-15 BVR missiles which have an operational range of 300 km, however, none of the PAF aircraft have a radar that can track targets up to that range.

Nonetheless, IAF should take note of these developments by PAF as PAF still maintains an edge over IAF in its AWACS capabilities, which can be very vital during an actual engagement. It must be noted that PAF has a sole enemy, that is IAF, whereas IAF has to split itself to counter PAF as well as PLAAF (Chinese Airforce). 

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