By Waheed Hamid

The importance of self reliance in Defence Production in Pakistan practically started in 1951 with the establishment of Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF) at WAH. Over the years the base of defence production expanded production units like Heavy Industries Taxila, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra and Directorate General of Munitions Production alongwith its R&D organizations. These establishments are not only feeding our Armed Forces but are also exporting their products to friendly countries. Development/Production of Al-Khalid Tank, Al-Zarrar Tank, Agosta Submarine, Mushshak/Super-Mushshak Aircraft, JF-17 Aircraft, different variants of APCs and F-22P Frigates at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works, with the collaboration of Chinese, contribute towards self-reliance in the field of defence production.

Though  west has also been a source of acquiring defence  equipment but China has always been the main partner in indigenous defence production.  China and Pakistan have been  cooperating and sharing information and technology in joint ventures with mutual understanding and confidence . China has based their important defence production Agency  in Islamabad  which serves as a conduit of military hardware transfers to Pakistan. Kamra Complex known as the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex      ( PAC ) which is located at a distance of some 75 km from Islamabad consists of Aircraft Manufacturing Factory, Mirage Rebuild Factory (Pakistan had acquired a number of used Mirage aircraft from Australia) and the F-6 MIG 19 SF Rebuild Factory. “Expertise and practical experience here are acquired through close cooperation with the original aircraft manufacturers and other specialised agencies.”

The unipolar world and inception of non state actors has proved that air power is the most effective element of military might due to its inherent characteristics of high speed, long range, quick response, precision firepower and shock effect from the third dimension. These characteristics  air power operates at a technological level higher than the other elements of the armed forces. Air forces continually strive to achieve and maintain a technological edge over their perceived adversaries. This phenomenon is more pronounced – and significant – for an air force like PAF, which has to remain prepared for an out-numbered battle. The decision of producing an aircraft indigenously  mainly depends on three reasons: Firstly, fighter aircraft represent the top end of the scale in the leading edge of technology which offers challenges and rewards for local industry in terms of technology transfer. Secondly, the fighter holds the key to the success of air power which itself is pivotal in most if not all modern war scenarios. Thirdly, fighters are acquired in large numbers make indigenous production viable. 

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PAF decided to participate in the development and production of JF-17 aircraft with China on the principle of joint investment, risk and benefit sharing. It allowed Pakistan the flexibility to develop an aircraft  to meet our particular defence needs  within our limited budget. Such mass level replacement of an air force fleet takes place after every two to three decades. The JF-17 Program thus offered a unique window of opportunity for Pakistan to venture into production of JF-17 aircraft along with its time tested Chinese friends. It was heartening to know that the flow of technology was not only one way but the crux of PAF experience and expertise of years and years was also transferred to Chinese counterparts. The most modern glass cockpit was designed by the PAF experts and the comprehensive Man-Machine Interface (MMI) is mostly based on the inputs of PAF Pilots. The direct involvement of PAF experts with the manufacturers also paid dividends in form of incorporating all the features of a superior avionics system and enhance its efficacy in our environment.

The JF-17 Thunder has come up as  all weather, multi-role, light combat aircraft that has the potential to be the main stay & work horse of any Air Force.  The design of    JF-17 aircraft is based on modern concepts of aerodynamics.  The aircraft is equipped with a digital fly-by-wire flight control system that gives it the agility in all regimes of the operational flight envelope.  The JF-17 has a complete glass cockpit, excellent man-machine interface and modern self–protection suite, which enhance combat potential and survivability of the aircraft.  The JF-17 is equipped with fourth generation avionics systems, wide range of conventional & smart weapons, long range glide bombs, Beyond Visual Range & short range Air-to-Air missiles, Anti-Ship missile and Air-to-Surface missiles.  The aircraft requires remarkably short lengths of runway for take-off & landing, which offers flexibility of aircraft operations at short air strips. The vitalization of self-reliance brought in by the JF-17 project does not limit here. It has given PAF the expertise to undertake the developments of our own avionics subsystems for JF-17 aircraft.

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The JF-17 Thunder project refreshed the sweet memories of Pak China friendship when its product  thundered into the skies of China in an exhibition few days back. It also marked  the other side of Pakistan which is quite different from what few in the west are made to perceives. Pakistan comprises of a high level of human intellect which has the ability to deliver. PAF has delivered and Pakistan moves on to higher pedestal of bright and self sustained future.