PAF to attain capability to keep its jets airborne longer
RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is all set to attain the capability of keeping its indigenously developed fighter aircraft JF 17 (Thunder) airborne for a longer haul, said Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafiq Butt.
The air chief in an interview with Defence Jane’s Weekly said that the ground tests have been very successful and he was very satisfied.
The air-to-air refuelling test would be done successfully by end of this summer, he added.
Pakistan had acquired the refuelling air tankers Ilyushin II-78 from Ukraine back in 2010 and these are being synchronised with medium to high tech multi-role aircraft thus giving it the capability to remain in air for longer durations.
Mr Butt pointed out that the capability would enhance the marketability of the aircraft, which at present is being monitored by a number of countries due to its cost effectiveness and other valuable abilities.
“The JF-17 programme has been an excellent project to pursue, owing to the hard work put in by our engineers, technicians and test pilots,” he added.
He said that this would have not been possible without the cooperation of China.
He further said that JF-17 has the capability of carrying a variety of weapons, adding that it is a true multi-role aircraft and in time would become the PAF’s mainstay.
He said that the PAF has a plan to induct around 200 to 250 JF-17 aircraft into it’s fleet.
Answering a question regarding the induction of Chinese-built ZDK-03 airborne early warning aircraft, Mr Butt said that it has so far shown that its capabilities work well over sea, plains and mountainous terrain.”
In the meantime, he said PAF has also been maintaining and operating a sizeable fleet of US F-16 aircraft and its crew are fairly experienced in handling the weapon system.
“The PAF received its last batch of F-16s in the recent past and even now there are US Congressional clearances available for the provision of additional F-16 aircraft,” he added.
To a query regarding purchase of high-tech aircraft, he said options are still open.
He said that the PAF must prepare for a two-front situation in view of its combat role in Pakistan’s anti- terrorism campaign, which has evolved since the 9/11 attacks on the US.
“Airpower can achieve much more in a short span of time if employed with clear understanding of its capabilities,” he said.
“Its inherent flexibility has enabled nation states to successfully deter their conventional adversaries as well as prosecute irregular outfits. We are now faced with a definite two-front scenario: external as well as internal.
While we have always prepared for the traditional and ominous external threat, the new predicament did take us a while to get up to speed with, but ...we did manage to learn on the job quickly and are very efficiently supporting our ground troops in all their operations against militants.” app