Pakistan Air Force: A Symbol of Pride for Nation

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

In the nascent years of Pakistan Air Force (PAF), while visiting the PAF Station at Risalpur, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, “There is no doubt that any country without a strong Air Force is at the mercy of any aggressor. Pakistan must build up its Air Force as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient Air Force second to none”. The sincere and highly professional leadership like Air Marshal (retired) Asghar Khan and Air Marshal (retired) Nur Khan in the early days of the PAF truly followed the Quaid’s words and the successors also carried the legacy of their predecessors. This is the result of the untiring efforts of the leadership and all the daring men under their command that the PAF has not only assured the cost-effective and successful aerial defense of Pakistan but also risen to be among the most respected air forces in the world.

“Since 1947, the PAF has maintained a unique standard of its readiness and operational efficiency during peace and wartime as well. In the early days, under the leadership of the late Air Marshal (retired) Asghar Khan and the late Air Marshal (retired) Nur Khan, the PAF was not only built as a highly professional dynamic Air Power through rigorous and state of the art training of its Pilots and aircrews but also set clear objectives to achieve high operational efficiency and air superiority against its adversaries in the region. This was the result of their sincere efforts and farsighted vision that the PAF gained air superiority over the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the war of 1965 between Pakistan and India”

Pakistan Air Force was born on 14th August 1947 when Pakistan appeared on the map of the world. The success story of the PAF is unmatched as the emergence of the PAF, with the small number of personnel and insufficient equipment, as a powerful and formidable weapon of Pakistan’s defense was an amazing phenomenon. The PAF is a prestigious institution of Pakistan which, by carrying the values of integrity, excellence, and teamwork, has earned exceptional respect. Moreover, the training, discipline, air defense operations, successful self-sufficiency in the production of fighter jets and air weapons, and readiness in the time of need to defend the country’s air space or to help the countrymen in natural disasters and calamities have significantly contributed to dignity and credibility of the institution.

Pakistan Air Force has prepared itself for the challenges of the 21st Century during recent years and presently fully capable and ready to thwart any potential threat to the country. The PAF’s recent successful operation in response to Indian aggression against Pakistan has not only deterred the Indian ambitions to establish new normal in South Asia, the respect for the institution has also increased manifold. The PAF also has the honor to train the pilots of several countries.

Since 1947, the PAF has maintained a unique standard of its readiness and operational efficiency during peace and wartime as well. In the early days, under the leadership of the late Air Marshal (retired) Asghar Khan and the late Air Marshal (retired) Nur Khan, the PAF was not only built as a highly professional dynamic Air Power through rigorous and state of the art training of its Pilots and aircrews but also set clear objectives to achieve high operational efficiency and air superiority against its adversaries in the region. This was the result of their sincere efforts and farsighted vision that the PAF gained air superiority over the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the war of 1965 between Pakistan and India.

The PAF Pilots during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965 succeeded to write stories of courage, bravery, and resilience against the much more powerful enemy, India. The late Air Commodore (retired) Mohammad Mahmood Alam made a unique record in the history of the world by shooting down five (5) Indian Air Crafts in less than one minute during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, all five aircraft are Hawker Hunter aircraft on one sortie on 7 September 1965. The PAF gained complete aerial superiority over the IAF in the 1965 war between India and Pakistan.

The PAF Pilots have not only thwarted the threats at home but also made history outside the country. A PAF veteran, Squadron Leader Saif-ul-Azam along with Wisam-ul-Istaqlal was awarded by Jordan for destroying two Israeli Mysteres as they were flying for the Jordan Air Force during the 1967 Arab-Israel war. Mr. Azam was also awarded a medal of bravery Nawat –ul-Shuja by Iraq for shooting down one Mirage and one Vautour aircraft of the Israel Air Force, while he was representing the Iraq Air Force.

Moreover, Flight Lieutenant Sattar Alvi and Squadron Leader Arif Manzoor shot down an Israeli Mirage and they were awarded Wisam-e-Faris and Wisam-e-Shuja’at by the Jordan Air Force. Firing his K-13 Air-to-Air Missile at the first opportunity, he shot down the Israeli Mirage. The remaining Israeli fighters aborted the mission. Pakistan Air Force did not lose a single pilot or aircraft during this war. On this act of gallantry, he was awarded with Sitar-e-Jura’t by Government of Pakistan, and Wisaam Faris and Wisaam Shujaat by Government of Syria. Both these pilots were also honored with a Sitara-e-Jurat by the Government of Pakistan. There was also an exceptional pilot, Wing Commander Hameed Anwar, who flew with the RAF Black Arrow team with a Pakistani flag on its tail.  Mr. Hameed trained the pilots of the Jordanian Air Force for the war. It is pertinent to mention that, for the first time, an Arab shot down an Israeli aircraft, and another Israeli aircraft was damaged. This surprise was given by the students of Wing Commander Hameed Anwar.

Pakistan – Modernisation of the PAF

In pursuit of the PAF’s objective to become self-sufficient in the manufacturing of aircraft and air weapons, the PAF established Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Air Weapons Complex (AWC). The K-8 Aircrafts and Mushshak Aircraft are being developed solely by the PAC. Moreover, the JF-17 Thunder is an advanced, lightweight, all-weather, day/night multi-role fighter aircraft that was developed as a joint venture between Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra, and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) of China. Now, the JF-17s are being built in the PAC. The AWC has designed and developed the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) for the PAF.

The PAF has acquired the state of the art warplanes including Mirages IIIs and V, F7s, and F-16s in the past, now it is planning to buy new aircraft like Chinese J-10s in near future meet the new challenges. Moreover, The PAF, on 30th December 2020, formally announced serial production of the most advanced variant of JF-17 Thunder Block III – a 4.5-generation aircraft with far more advanced technology than IAF’s Rafael jets. There is also news circulating on media that the Chinese J-11B Jet can be next on Pakistan’s shopping list.

Furthermore, the PAF trains pilots of several friendly countries. For instance, in the previous year, the pilots of the Azerbaijan Air Force completed their 2 years Super Mushshak & T-37 pilot training program at the PAF Academy. These training programs remarkably strengthen the military collaboration between the countries. It is also worth mentioning that Pakistan has sold JF-17s to Nigeria and Myanmar, though there is no news of confirmation about the delivery yet. Moreover, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra has built and exported around 80 Mushshak aircraft in recent years.

“Acquisition of J-10 C mark as “a major milestone,” making it the more modern and capable fighter in the Pakistan’s fleet. Pakistan has long indicated interest in the sophisticated J-10 as part of its continuing attempts to replace its ageing fleet of F-7 and Mirages as the Pakistan Air Force adapts and modernizes its warfighting capabilities. Pakistan officially inducts Chinese-built J-10C fighter jets in March 2022. In a statement, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said: “Induction of J-10C aircraft has further strengthened PAF as a formidable and potent force well capable of defending the aerial frontiers of our beloved country. With J-10C ‘Dragon’ Omni role fighter in its ranks, PAF retains the first shot BVR capability while maintaining a qualitative edge in the application of Air Power across all domains”

In many of today’s most serious security concerns, Pakistan’s military is a key player to ensure the sovereignty of a state.  Under the new Chief of Air Staff (CAS) – Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Zaheer Ahmad Babar Sidhu, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is aiming towards it modernize. Pakistan’s currently in active service aircraft with the PAF are following:

  • J-10C to help PAF achieve air dominance

Acquisition of J-10 C mark as “a major milestone,” making it the more modern and capable fighter in the Pakistan’s fleet. Pakistan has long indicated interest in the sophisticated J-10 as part of its continuing attempts to replace its ageing fleet of F-7 and Mirages as the Pakistan Air Force adapts and modernizes its warfighting capabilities. Pakistan officially inducts Chinese-built J-10C fighter jets in March 2022. In a statement, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said: “Induction of J-10C aircraft has further strengthened PAF as a formidable and potent force well capable of defending the aerial frontiers of our beloved country. With J-10C ‘Dragon’ Omni role fighter in its ranks, PAF retains the first shot BVR capability while maintaining a qualitative edge in the application of Air Power across all domains.”

  • F-16 Fighting Falcon

Pakistan operates around sixty-six F-16A/Bs and nineteen F-16C/Ds in four active squadrons, including No. 9 Griffins multi-role squadron in Sargodha, the No. 19 Sherdills training and air defense squadron at Thatta, and the No. 11 Arrows multi-role squadron based at Shahbaz near Jacobabad. The last base also hosts No. 5 Falcons multi-role squadron, the only F-16C/D unit.

  • Sherdils

TO TWIRL, POUNCE…POUNCE AND TWIRL…

‘TIS BUT A SCHEME TO KEEP THE BLOOD ON THE SWIRL.

Sherdils’. The romantic aura surrounding the PAF Academy aerobatics team is something real and exalting. Made up of instructors of the Basic Flying Training (BFT) Wing, ‘Sherdils’ seem to be a shade above the squalor of ‘patters and demos’1 when they take to the air. Any one who has seen the ten-minute spectacle is bound to agree about one thing – it is technically superb and aesthetically pleasing.

The brainchild of an Academy instructor, Sqn Ldr Bahar-ul-haq, the team was formed on the lines of ‘Red Pelicans’, the aerobatics team of RAF College, Cranwell where Bahar had been on an exchange tour. It was decided to put up a brief show on graduation parades as a demonstration of the professional skills of Academy instructors.

The T-37 four-shipper first flew on the 17th August 1972 after several trials of candidate instructors. The team was finally formed under the tutelage of the famous 1965 War hero, Wg Cdr Imtiaz A Bhatti, SJ, the then Officer Commanding of BFT Wing; other formation members included Flt Lt Aamer Ali Sharieff, Flt Lt A Rahim Yusufzai and Flt Lt Niaz Nabi, the latter becoming a most durable master of the ‘slot’ position. The initial performance of the team brought instant applause and the ‘tweety birds’ became the star performers at air displays and firepower demonstrations for dignitaries, including Heads of State and military delegations.

CONCLUSION

Broadly speaking, the PAF has always maintained preparedness and operational readiness during all the conflicts, be it full fledge wars like 1965 and 1971 or misadventures of small scale by the enemies of peace in the region like Kargil conflict in 1999, Pak-India border escalation in 2001, and 2008, Operation Zarb-E-Azb and Pakistan-India conflict after Pulwama incident in February 2019. The recent operation by the PAF, Operation Swift Retort, against Indian nefarious designs to establish new normal in the region also proved the PAF’s superiority over the IAF.

In response to India’s so-called Balakot airstrike, the PAF launched a counter strike which was codenamed as “Operation Swift Retort”. The purpose was essential to demonstrate Pakistan’s resolve and capability. Open spaces in a military garrison near Line of Control were selected for the bombing to avoid any human casualty. The PAF warplanes crossed the LOC and bombed the selected areas. In retaliation, IAF fighter jets tried to chase the PAF warplanes and as a result, the two IAF aircraft, MiG-21, and SU-30 were shot down by the PAF fighter jets. The MiG-21 pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured alive but later returned to India as a gesture of goodwill.

In short, the PAF has been and is still a dignified and credible weapon of Pakistan’s aerial defense. It has always been leading from the front, throughout history, in times of war as well as peace.  The nation is proud of the PAF which hasn’t only succeeded to defend Pakistan’s airspace but has also risen to be among the most respected air forces of the world. Thus, it is rightly stated that “Sleep tight because the PAF is awake”.

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About Amna Malik 61 Articles
Author is the President, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and ‘ The Asian Telegraph’.