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F-16s, Why Not?

28 December, 2005

By Farzana Shah


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Heavy military spending and arms race are discouraged the world over, however one sees that countries, specially those having no need to acquire  more and more sophisticated military armament are still doing so spending millions on the same.

On the other hand Pakistan has been opposed even for trying to fulfill its minimal defence requirements. The massive task of rehabilitation and reconstruction of October 8 quake-victims provided an excuse to certain quarters at the national and at the international level, who have had always scant respect for  the Pakistan security needs, to ask for the cancellation of its deal with the US for the purchase of F-16 aircraft badly needed by the PAF.  The deferment of the deal  by the government  has been though acclaimed  by the interested quarters yet, it is has caused concern for many regarding the security needs of the motherland. For Pakistan it was big question of  do or not to do. And though the decision was taken keeping in view the rehabilitation of the quake-victims, which is certainly the top most priority of the government, yet one cannot totally relegate the defence requirements of the country.

There are many factors to be considered seriously regarding  the acquisition of the military equipment by Pakistan, specially the much needed fighter jets.

It is too well known a fact that Pakistan has never been in confrontation with other countries rather our quest for the military equipment is always aimed at safe guarding the country against any aggression by an adversary and maintaining a semblance of the balance of power in the region, as allowed by its meager means.
 
On the international front we  have had no conflict with any country, which unfortunately can not be said for thesubcontinental arena. Without going into the causes of these skirmishes and confrontations, or who is to be blamed for these, we would like to forget and forgive them as the undesirable events of the past. And we expect the same from India too who has also no conflict with any other country at the international level and is too strong for all the countries in the region put together. It is, therefore, quite perplexing to see the way she is arming her armed forces with the latest and most lethal war equipment.  One can not help ask the question, “against whom is she increasing her military might which is already 5 to 7 times of Pakistan`s military strength – supposedly the next strongest country in the region?”.

It would not be out of place if just to elaborate the point a stock of only one of the Indian armed forces – the Indian Air Force – is taken.

• The Indian Air Force is the world`s fourth largest air force. Has five Operational Commands, over 500 helicopters and more than 1700 aircraft.
•  Just about two months back in October India has been offered Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. According to reports the EADS (European Aeronautics and Defence Systems) is pitching for its multi-role Eurofighter Typhoon--a truly multi-role, suitable for air defense, bombing and air superiority missions-- sale to India. EADS also participated in the advanced light helicopter project in late-eighties, in October last in briefings to the Indian government, offered to take India on board its fifth generation fighter aircraft project, which is far well advanced than the Russian project, and the first Typhoons could be delivered by 2006. According to the EADS team executives, the aircraft can be entirely produced in India and it would be involved right from R and D stage, if it (India) chooses to deal with EASD.
• During the same month (October 2005) according to reports Indian Air Force planned to increase the number of Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) and plans to buy 200 of them.
• The Indian Cabinet Committee on Security, which clears major defense programs, in October, accepted the Air Force`s proposal to increase the number from the original 126, for which a request for information already has been sent to overseas vendors. The value of the original contract was $5 billion; the revised plan brings the combined value of one or more contracts to $8.5 billion.
• The reports quoting a senior Defence Ministry official said the Air Force plans to phase out 60 of its 140 Jaguar aircraft in the next five years, by which time MMRCAs would start arriving. The additional planes will replace more Jaguars, MiG-23s, and some squadrons of MiG-27s.
• A request for information for the initial 126 planes was sent to Lockheed Martin for its F-16, Saab for the JAS 39 Gripen, Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (RAC MiG) for the MiG-29 SMT, and Dassault Aviation for the Mirage 2000-5. Boeing also has offered its F/A-18 aircraft for consideration, as has RAC MiG for the MiG-35, as reported by India defence site.
• Another matter of concern for us is that India and the United States have entered into a new strategic partnership, with Washington agreeing to provide nuclear and space technology for civilian use. The purchase of the F-16 or F/A-18 would signal the beginning of a new defense relationship between India and the United States, said Surya Pal Singh, a retired Indian Air Force air commodore.
• He added that the purchase of two types of MMRCAs not only will help speed up acquisition of the aircraft, it also may help the Air Force acquire American aircraft, which have been offered with the latest radar, Singh said.
• “India wants as part of the MMRCA package the U.S.    Active Electronically Scanned Array radar as well as new-generation missiles”, the Defence Ministry official said.
• Recently IAF has ordered 150 fourth-generations Su-30MK and most will be produced in India under a technology transfer agreement with Russia, besides it will be getting Israeli Phalcon AWACS advanced surveillance.

By looking at the IAF structure we can clearly observe that of its five operational air commands, two are directly of concern to us as its Western Air Command with headquarters in Delhi being the prime one, is responsible for air operations from Kashmir southwards to Rajasthan including the capital and Punjab, with an Operations Group dedicated for Jammu & Kashmir including Ladakh.

The second one is South Western Air Command, at Jodhpur, which is responsible for air operations in most of Rajasthan, southwards through Gujrarat to Saurashtra and the Kutch area.

The IAF five Operational Commands through administrative Wings, control some 45 fixed-wing squadrons, 20 helicopter units and numerous surface -to- air missile squadrons, with unit establishments varying from 12 to 18 aircraft. This represents total aircraft strength of nearly 1,700.

In such a situation we should not appear indifferent to our security needs and press the government for rolling back the purchase F-16 and not to buy the Swedish Erieye aircraft will be highly irresponsible as it will render the nation vulnerable to enemy`s attack.
If we at all are bent upon sparing money for social activities than why those opposing and ignoring the defence needs, are not forcing the government for quashing import of two VVIP business jets including an airbus for Prime Minister`s foreign trips.
According to reports the first of these two, a used 12-seater Gulf Stream business jet costing $28 million is likely to arrive in Pakistan this month. The agreement envisages its buyback by the supplier for $22 million after two years and its replacement with a newer version for $33 million; hence the net additional cost will be $11 million after two years. Now why on earth we are going to spend such a huge amount on one person? Is the Prime Minister above the welfare and the security of the country? Could he not travel in a PIA flight or in case of special circumstances not charter a PIA aircraft for tours abroad.
Earlier we had inflicted losses of millions on national exchequer by importing 40 Mercedes cars for the vulnerable ministers. The so-called ministers can travel without luxury vehicles but the country`s defence can not be put at stake in any case.
 
Similarly millions could be saved by shelving  the construction of the new GHQ complex at Islamabad when a fully operational GHQ is available nearby at Rawalpindi.

 We had been trying for the acquisition of F-16 for nearly 15 years and it was only after 9/11 that the US has had a change of heart about them for Pakistan. Most of the payment for the jet fighters  has already been made to the USA so there is no justification for backing on the deal now. By her unstinted support to US for its war on terror Pakistan has already ensured that there might not be another 9/11, and another most favorable time for Pakistan to take advantage of to fulfill the minimum requirement of its air force.


End.

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