Pakistan — Modernisation of the PAF

Fourth­ly, Pakistan’s belief in offen­sive aggres­sive strate­gies and its deep root­ed belief that by going on the offen­sive, small­er size forces in his­to­ry have won wars against big­ger ene­mies. All the four wars which Pak­istan has fought with India (in 1947–48, 1965, 1971 and 1999), have been ini­ti­at­ed by Pak­istan. The war in 1971 was caused by Pakistan’s inter­nal insta­bil­i­ty. But the actu­al war was ini­ti­at­ed by Pak­istan with a pre-emp­tive air strike against Indi­an Air Force bases on 3rd Decem­ber. In addi­tion it adopt­ed the offen­sive route for its covert war through ter­ror­ism in Jam­mu and Kash­mir since 1988 (besides that in Pun­jab in 1983–93). Pak­istan has relied heav­i­ly on the strat­e­gy of offen­sive action and thus the acqui­si­tions of high tech­nol­o­gy weapons are sought to sup­port this strategy.

Mod­erni­sa­tion of the PAF

Dur­ing the ear­ly decades, Pak­istan acquired arms main­ly from the USA (for high-tech­nol­o­gy sys­tems) and Chi­na (for low cost but effi­cient sys­tems) and a small pro­por­tion con­tributed by France. In fact, the mas­sive US arms aid to Pak­istan in the late 1950s pro­vid­ed it with both the incen­tive to ini­ti­ate the 1965 war as well as demon­strat­ed the phi­los­o­phy of high tech­nol­o­gy weapons pro­vid­ing a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage against India.

Pak­istan entered into the South­east Asia Treaty Organ­i­sa­tion (SEATO) in 1955 and the Bagh­dad Pact, renamed the Cen­tral Treaty Organ­i­sa­tion (CENTO), after Iraq left the pact in 1956. This result­ed in a robust inflow of mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic aid for Pak­istan. Being a mem­ber of these two secu­ri­ty alliances pro­vid­ed Pak­istan a stronger claim on US resources and, as Den­nis Kux right­ly states, the US also ben­e­fit­ed with the reg­u­lar inter­ac­tion between the Pak­istani civil­ian and mil­i­tary offi­cials and their coun­ter­parts from the oth­er mem­ber coun­tries. In this process the US acquired a larg­er stake in its Pak­istan relationship.

By the year 1957, Pak­istan was receiv­ing a mas­sive amount of sophis­ti­cat­ed mil­i­tary equip­ment, train­ing and eco­nom­ic aid. The inflow from Wash­ing­ton includ­ed sophis­ti­cat­ed Pat­ton main bat­tle tanks, mod­ern artillery, how­itzers, F‑86 jet fight­er squadrons, F‑104 Starfight­er super­son­ic inter­cep­tors, air-to-air mis­siles, sub­marines (the first sub­ma­rine to be intro­duced into the Indi­an Ocean by a devel­op­ing coun­try, as indeed was the F‑104 super­son­ic inter­cep­tor) and state-of-the-art radar, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and trans­porta­tion equip­ment. Fur­ther, qual­i­ta­tive boost came from the mil­i­tary train­ing by the US mil­i­tary teams and also in the US mil­i­tary schools for the Pak­istani army.

Affil­i­a­tion with China

Zul­fi­quar Ali Bhutto’s diplo­mat­ic pol­i­cy brought Pak­istan clos­er to Bei­jing and Pak­istan entered into sev­er­al eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion agree­ments with Chi­na. After the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Pak­istan received inter­est free eco­nom­ic aid and also a sig­nif­i­cant amount of free weapons from Chi­na. Pak­istan, in fact became the only non-com­mu­nist third world coun­try to receive gen­er­ous assis­tance from Chi­na. The Chi­nese F‑6 entered the PAF inven­to­ry in 1966 fol­lowed by oth­er sys­tems. Chi­nese mil­i­tary assis­tance came in not only in the form of arms but also devel­op­ment of the indige­nous facil­i­ties for defence pro­duc­tion in Pak­istan. The F‑6 Rebuild Fac­to­ry (F‑6RF) at Kam­ra was set up with Chi­nese assistance.

The Unit­ed States arms embar­go fol­lowed by the 1965 Indo-Pak­istan war led to with­draw­al of US mil­i­tary assis­tance and also the sus­pen­sion of US equip­ment to Pak­istan. Pak­istan was com­pelled to look into alter­nate options and thus it turned to Chi­na, North Korea, Ger­many, Italy and France for mil­i­tary aid. In the late 1960s, Pak­istan received Mig-19 Fight­ers from Chi­na, apart from the sub­stan­tive infantry equip­ment. France sup­plied a few Mirage air­craft and even Sovi­et Union pro­vid­ed Pak­istan Mi‑8 helicopters.

In the 1970s, although US equip­ment was not avail­able for Pak­istan, mod­erni­sa­tion of the PAF was kept up with the help of Chi­nese equip­ment on one side and the French equip­ment on the oth­er. Chi­na sup­plied 115 F‑6 Fight­ers between 1971 and 1981. France sup­plied 72 Mirages between 1971–83. Some air defence equip­ment like F‑104A Fight­ers and Heli­copters were bought from Jor­dan and UK. Indige­nous defence pro­duc­tion was focused to progress towards self-reliance and more impor­tant­ly to revi­talise the PAF in the 1970s. Rebuild­ing fac­to­ries for Mirages and F‑6 planes and the pro­duc­tion facil­i­ty for MIF-17 train­ers was set up.

The arms pipeline

The Sovi­et inva­sion of Afghanistan in Decem­ber 1979 led to the Amer­i­can review of their South Asian pol­i­cy and con­se­quent­ly Pak­istan entered into a new engage­ment with the US. Pak­istan was declared a “front­line State” and in return received mas­sive mil­i­tary aid. Gen­er­al Zia-ul Haq man­aged to nego­ti­ate an elab­o­rate mil­i­tary and secu­ri­ty-relat­ed aid pack­age of US$ 3.2 bil­lion. The US mil­i­tary aero­space pow­er PAK HEADWAY An ISO 9001:2008 Cer­ti­fied Mag­a­zine assis­tance pro­gramme includ­ed the sale of 40 F‑16 Fal­con mul­ti-role com­bat air­craft, one of the most advanced mil­i­tary air­craft in the world at that time. Pak­istan also received attack heli­copters and sec­ond-hand destroyers.

The sec­ond US pack­age worth US$ 4.02 bil­lon com­menced in 1987 but was sus­pend­ed due to the US arms embar­go in 1990 due to Pak­istan cross­ing the “red line” to acquire nuclear weapons capa­bil­i­ty. Chi­nese weapons, being cheap­er, con­tin­ued to hold a sig­nif­i­cant share in the Pak­istani inven­to­ry. Although arms from Chi­na were tech­no­log­i­cal­ly not as supe­ri­or as from the West, how­ev­er they were capa­ble sys­tems, were afford­able and pro­vid­ed quan­ti­ty to boost Pakistan’s mil­i­tary pow­ers. In fact, by the ear­ly 1980s, Chi­na had pro­vid­ed Pak­istan with rough­ly about 65 per cent of its aircraft. 

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