Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was founded on August 14, 1947. PAF played the main role in the country’s defence. During its 70 yearlong existence was PAF involved in four wars with India and Soviet-Afghan war where PAF played a significant role.
In last 70 years were PAF pilots privileged to fly US fighter jets like F-86 Sabre and F-104 Starfighter, Chinese fighter jets like A-5, F-6, FT-2 or FT-5, and UK fighter jets like Hawker Tempest II, Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII, Hawker Sea Fury and Supermarine Attacker F Mk.1.
Currently is PAF flying fighter jets like American F-16, Pakistani JF-17 Thunder, Chinese F-7PG and French Mirage III and Mirage V.
Indian Air Force (IAF) as the biggest rival of Pakistan Air Force always had numerical superiority over PAF.
In 1965’s war PAF had a technological advantage over IAF which helped PAF to counter Indian Air Force numerical superiority but if we see today the table is totally turned. Today IAF not only have numerical superiority but they also have a technological advantage over PAF.
Currently, IAF is flying fighter jets like Russian Su-30 MKI, MiG-29, MiG-27 and MiG-21, French Mirage 2000, Indian HAL Tejas and UK Sepecat Jaguar.
Indian Air Force is also at the beginning of modernization. Last year IAF placed an order for 36 French Dassault Rafale jets, one of greatest 4th generation multirole fighter aircraft. Apart from that IAF is in negotiation with SAAB for Gripen E fighter jets and Lockheed Martin for F-16 Block 70 to fulfil its single-engine multi-role fighter needs.
To fulfil India Navy Aircraft carrier jets needs IAF is also in talks with Boeing for F/A-18 Super Hornet jets. Indian Air Force is also in starting phase of developing its own next-generation fighter aircraft. IAF has started its Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programs.
So for PAF, it’s now and never situation. Now it’s time for PAF think tank to take actions for modernization of PAF with 4th and 5th generation fighter jets. On an urgent basis, PAF should look forward to acquiring a 4th generation air superiority fighter jets as soon as possible. Otherwise, PAF would be left in the race. Best options for PAF are Russian Su-35. PAF can also go for European fighter jets like Eurofighter Typhoon or French Dassault Rafale but they are way too expensive and Pakistan is under developing countries. Pakistan can’t afford them
In case of fifth-generation fighter jets, we hear some rumours that PAF is starting its own fifth-generation fighter jet program. For the long run, it is good but for the near future, PAF should put serious thought in acquiring Chines J-31 as soon as it is available. PAF showed interest in buying 30-40 Chinese stealth aircraft J-31.
Right now PAF has one major advantage over IAF. IAF is focused on importing fighter jets while PAF is moving toward self-reliance. While IAF is yet to start a replacement program of old fighter jets MiG-21 and SEPECAT Jaguar. While on the other hand PAF is continuously producing JF-17 and replacing its old Mirage and F-7 squadrons with JF-17 Thunder. Recently Pakistan Aeronautical complex rolled out its 100th JF-17. Apart from that PAF is also exporting JF-17 and continuously working with Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China on upgrading its JF- 17 fighter jets. By the end of 2018, they will start production of JF-17 Block 3 which is an advanced version with modern avionics.
But JF-17 is not a solution of all PAF miseries. The purpose of the JF-17 Thunder project is to replace old fighter jets like F-7 and Mirage with an advanced and economical jet. For that purpose, JF-17 is an ideal choice but to counter advanced IAF jets like Su-30 MKI right now or Rafale in the future PAF also needs an air superiority fighter jet in their ranks. PAF think tank should realize now that to counter Indian Air Force numerical superiority. PAF has to acquire or produce technologically advanced aircraft that gives them an edge in battle.