According to reports Pakistan will buy 5th generation fighter jets from abroad while also updating its existing JF-17 warplane.
Pakistan is in the market for the latest fifth-generation fighter jets, as other Asian neighbors also look to upgrade their air force capabilities, writes Muhammad Saleh Zaafir for The News.
Pakistan to keep up with regional rivals in modernizing air force
Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman told The News that Pakistan would keep up with other regional powers that are buying 5th generation jets, and that negotiations have begun with the U.S. about buying single engine multi-role F-35 fighters. The plane is widely regarded as the fighter jet of the next decade.
Aman said that three options are being explored and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) could have 5th generation jets within 5 years. Historic rival India has been negotiating the acquisition of 126 Rafale fighter jets from France for years, but the deal has proven difficult to complete.
India maintains that the Rafale is a 5th generation jet, but New Delhi will now only buy 36 planes.
Air Force chief criticizes Indian purchase of Rafale jets
Aman was scathing in his assessment of the Rafale. “I am not prepared to acknowledge Rafale as a plane of the fifth generation since its features are confined to the fourth generation’s planes,” the CAS said.
Although the Indian Air Force (IAF) has more planes than its Pakistani counterpart, Aman claims that it does not boast superior firepower due to careful planning from Pakistani officials. He claimed that the PAF is second to none in terms of devotion and skill, affording it a good reputation.
“We will never let the nation down in any eventuality or test. People have faith in their armed forces and they are very rightly doing so,” he added.
Pakistan selling Thunder JF-17 fighter jets to other countries
Aman later detailed that the Pakistani Thunder JF-17 jet is being sold to 4 different countries. He did not reveal details about who the buyers were nor the number of planes being sold. Despite problems with supplying parts for the planes, Aman said that orders would be fulfilled and that there would be no compromise on the quality of the planes.
The CAS then addressed the ongoing operation against militants in the tribal areas of north-west Pakistan. The border with Afghanistan has proven a haven for Islamist militants because its rugged terrain provides ample opportunity for them to hide from authorities.
Despite the challenges presented by the operation Aman said that the entire area would soon be cleared of terrorists and their facilitators. However he did not specify when the campaign would end.
“No deadline for declaring the end of the operation can be given in such operations since you never know what could sneak in from across the borders,” said Aman. “The operation has gone in an excellent way and the PAF did its duty in an exemplary manner.”
PAF involved in anti-terror operations
In addition to the air campaign in the tribal areas, Aman revealed that the PAF is also active in the Karachi area. Government troops have been cracking down on militant activities in the turbulent port city of 20 million.
As previously reported by ValueWalk, two military police were shot dead by militants in a targeted attack this week. The incident was a rare attack on military personnel in a city where the police are usually targeted.
It is thought that the militants may be pushing back against the intensifying anti-terror campaign, which is designed to reduce the activities of militant and criminal groups in the area. Last month 4 Rangers soldiers were shot dead as they guarded a mosque in Karachi.
The security situation in Pakistan has been steadily improving but militants maintain a frightening presence. At the same time Pakistan is confronting delicate situations in the geopolitical sphere, where relations with India are even more tense than usual.
High levels of defense spending by both of the nuclear-armed neighbors is fueling fears of an Asian arms race, with neither side willing to put aside historic enmity in order to concentrate on economic growth. Both India and Pakistan blame the other for ongoing tensions, and high-level dialogue is needed to prevent the escalation of the arms race and a potential descent into conflict.
Politicians in New Delhi and Islamabad are pursuing regional alliances in order to strengthen their hand, but bilateral discussions have been sorely lacking. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has offered to engage in talks with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, but no progress has been made.