Vol. I Issue. 34
Pakistan chasing armed Drones
19 November 2012

With the US refusing to share either the Drones or the technology involved, Pakistan is desperately looking for ways to develop a version of armed Drones for its use. It already has several versions of unarmed Drones in the armed forces. But efforts to develop an armed version have remained unsuccessful due to technological issues, principally a real-time effective guidance system, vehicle's carrying capacity and missiles.

The US has been using armed Drones to target militant groups in Pakistan for several years now. Pakistan has made protesting noises about the violation of sovereignty but the US has always argued that Drone attacks were taking place with Islamabad's consent. Pakistan, on its part, has not taken any defensive or offensive action against Drone attacks carried out by the US Army inside Pakistan.

But, as a quid pro quo, Pakistan has been demanding armed Drones from the US. The US had, at one point of time, agreed to sell unarmed Drones but the talks collapsed with the sudden souring of relationship following the Raymond Davis case and the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

Unarmed Drones have been in service for several years now, with various versions either imported or produced within Pakistan by the private as well as the public sector under, the National Engineering and Scientific Commission. Some of them include Uqaab for the Pakistan Army, Uqaab II for Pakistan Navy, Bravo +, Jasoos and Falco for Pakistan Air Force besides two types of target Drones, Ababeel and Baaz.

Pakistan, on its own, had been making unsuccessful attempts to build armed Drones for several years.

In the recent times, there have been unconfirmed reports about flight testing of an armed Drone, Burraq UAV, reportedly with an indigenous laser designator and laser-guided missiles.

It is believed that Burraq UAV was a modified version of unarmed Drones already in service. Most likely it is the Italian Falco in service with Pakistan Air Force. Falco, acquired from Italian firm Selex Galileo, is the most powerful Drone with the military and is capable of picking out targets through its laser guidance system for other platforms. Falco is not equipped to deliver munitions.

It was reportedly undergoing flight trials in 2009 and was supposed to be inducted in 2012. In December 2011, the media reports suggested that armed Drone's flight trials have been successful.

But some subsequent events question such claims. For instance, at a major defence exhibition in Karachi early November, Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said they were actively pursuing the Chinese to help in acquiring or producing armed Drones. China has offered to sell Pakistan their own version of armed Drones, the CH-3, which can carry two laser-guided missiles or bombs. There are reports that an advanced version, CH-4, with a carrying capacity of four laser-guided missiles or bombs, are also on offer to Pakistan.

A media report quoting a Chinese Drone exhibitor at the Karachi exhibition said Pakistan had purchased several CH-3 Drones and those were being upgraded to CH-4. The latest version of CH-4 reportedly has both reconnaissance and combat capabilities and is equipped to carry four precision-guided missiles over a range of 3500 kms.

Earlier, in October this year, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told his US counterparts during a visit to Washington that Pakistan would responsibly handle the Drone operations if the US were to give Drones to them, a likely indication that media reports about the successful flight trials of an armed Drone were not correct.

There are also reports of weapon tests were conducted some seven to eight months ago with an Italian Drone, Falco used by Pakistan Air Force for surveillance. The tests did not involve any strike. The Drone was modified to carry rockets. Results of the flight trials and weapon testing of these modified Drones remain shrouded in secrecy.

The military has also been testing an indigenous unarmed version of Drone, Shahpar. It was first revealed in public during the Karachi exhibition early November. Shahpar has a wingspan of seven metres (22 feet) and has a capacity to carry 50 kgs or 110 pounds. US Predator has a wingspan more than twice and a payload capacity four times that of Shahpar. Predator carries two Hellfire missiles. Shahpar has limited range as it operates on "line of sight" radio waves rather than military satellites. It can fly for a maximum range of 250 kms whereas a Predator can fly five times longer distance.

The possibility of Shahpar being a CH-3 version cannot be discounted. Analysts have found similarities in design. There is increasing evidence that China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) had sold at least 20 CH-3 armed Drones to Pakistan in 2011 along with FT-5 65 kg-class 'small diameter bomb'.

It is quite possible that both Shahpar and Burraq UAV could be souped up versions of the Chinese Drone, CH-3.

New anti-drone strategy devised: Qamar

Pakistan Minister for Defence, Syed Naveed Qamar, on November 8 denied any agreement with the US to conduct Drone attacks inside Paksitan. Briefing the Senate, the Defence Minister said the "government has formulated a new strategy against the missile attacks through unmanned spy planes and no treaty binds Pakistan to permit such strikes". When questioned by the Senate members, Qamar said there was no written or verbal record of any agreement with the US in the conduct of Drone operations inside Pakistan.

10 UAVs for Pak Army

Integrated Dynamics, a private UAV manufacturer, sold 10 unarmed Drones to the armed forces for surveillance during the recent Karachi defence exhibition. Called Skycam, the Drones are a hand-launched hand-launched micro-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can fly at an altitude of 300+ metres over a range of 5 to ten kms. A complete Skycam system comprises two UAVs with cameras, a ground control station, data and communication links and antennas. Costing $1 000 a piece, Skycams can attain a speed range of 10-30 km/h and can fly for about 30 minutes.

China and Turkey vie for defence orders

Chinese and Turkish companies campaigned feverishly to attract potential buyers for an array of defence hardware products at the recently concluded bi-annual International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) arms fair in Karachi. The exhibition also witnessed Pakistan making a big push to promote sales of its own military products. The special focus of the fair was UAVs. Several domestic and international UAV manufacturers, including Chinese, had their latest products on display and for sale. Chinese companies are pressing hard on Pakistan military to buy its two versions of armed Drones. There are reports that an earlier version has already been bought by Pakistan last year.

Though there were several foreign countries, it was the Chinese and Turkish companies that stole the show. Turkish companies ? such as Havelsan, a defence electronics, software and integration company; Yonca Onuk, a manufacturer of advanced composite patrol craft; and Turkish Aerospace Industries ? projected their latest equipment with an eye on possible orders from Pakistan armed forces. Havelsan and Yonca Onuk have been involved in Pakistani naval modernisation programmes for the past decade. Yonca Onuk had supplied its MRTP-15 and MRTP-33 patrol/fast interception craft, and now has offered latest advanced versions of these vessels to Pakistan Navy. Turkish officials claimed that Pakistan Navy had placed orders for Havelsan Genesis combat management system for its Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, PNS Alamgir. TAI wants to sell its T-129 attack helicopter to Pakistan. The Turkish firm had earlier supplied an air warfare test and training range and upgraded Pakistan's F-16A/B Block-15 fleet.

Of the Chinese firms, the biggest supply orders went to China Shipbuilding Trading Corporation (CSTC). Pakistan Navy ordered four advanced variants of F-22P Zulfiquar class frigates form the firm. Poly Group Corporation secured an order for an undisclosed number of its Type CS/VP3 MRAP vehicle.

Pakistan-Turkey defence ties

KARACHI: Military ties between Turkey and Pakistan have been gaining strength in the recent years. Mr Murad Bayar, Undersecretary for Defence Industries of the Republic of Turkey, said in Karachi recently that both the countries have an important role to play in their respective region. He was speaking at a reception given in his honour by Turkish Ambassador Babur Hizlan. Mr Bayar led an 80-member and 13 companies' delegation to the IDEAS 2012 exhibition held in Karachi. Bayar said all Turks consider Pakistan as their second home. He said he was optimistic about the relationship, particularly in the defence realm.

Pakistan Navy

Naval chief briefs President on F-22P frigates

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Asif Sandila called on President Asif Ali Zardari at Aiwan-e-Sadr on November 12 and briefed him about the naval force and development projects like the two F-22P frigates being constructed at Karachi Shipyard. Pakistan Navy has four such frigates in service at present. The frigates are a joint venture with China. Karachi Shipyard's Chinese partners include the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group, China State Shipbuilding Company, the China Shipbuilding and Trading Company. The first three frigates were built at Hudong-Zhonghau Shipyard in China. The fourth frigate in service was constructed at Karachi. The Karachi Shipyard is also building a Azmat-class Fast Attack Craft for the navy. This would be the second Azmat class craft for the navy; the first one, PNS Azmat, was built in China by Xingang Shiyard. The second one, PNS Dehshat, went into constructin in August this year. The crafts are constructed under a technology transfer agreement with China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.The Karachi Shiyard is also engaged in building a pusher tug for the navy and is in a bid for a 15-18000 ton fleet tanker. There are competing bids from China and Turkey for the tanker.

UK navy chief in Pak

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, Chief of the Naval Staff, UK called on Chief of the Naval Staff at the Naval Headquarters in Islamabad on November 19. At the meeting, Pakistan Navy gave a comprehensive brief on its Role in Regional Maritime Security Situation and Operational developments

Sri Lanka Commander of the Navy visits Pakistan

Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy visited Pakistan from 06th to 11th November 2012. The Admiral held wide ranging discussions on matters of mutual interests and bilateral importance with the Pakistan CNS and officials. He called on COM PAK, Vice Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah at PNTS, Commander Destroyer Squadron and Commander Karachchi, Rear Admiral Khawaja Ghazanfar Hussain at PNA Bahadur. The visit was another measure of growing relationship between Sri Lankan and Pakistan armed forces. Pakistan Navy offers advanced and specialised training to SLN personnel.

Qatar-Pakistan defence ties

Defence ties between Pakistan and Qatar got a boost with the signing of defence co-operation agreement in 2010, Pakistan embassy defence attaché Commodore Zafar Mansour Tipu said in October. He was speaking to the media aboard PNS Khaibar, a Pakistan Navy Destroyer, visiting Qatar port as part of the Exercise Ferocious Falcon (3) currently underway. PNS Khaibar commanding officer Captain Faisal Abbasi said Pakistan's participation in the multinational exercise was a " testimony to Pakistan's commitment to international maritime security on one hand and the country's close and cordial relations with Qatar on the other. Pakistan Navy has participated in the coalition maritime campaign plan (CMCP) since its inception in 2004 and we have contributed a naval ship to Task Force 151 for its anti-piracy operations since 2009," said Captain Abbasi. He pointed out that Pakistan was taking over the command of TF 151 in December 2012.

Pakistan Air Force

Nigerian Air Force Chief visits Air Headquarters

Chief of the Air Staff, Nigerian Air Force, Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh on Monday visited Air Headquarters Islamabad on November 12. He was received by Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force. The Nigerian Air Force delegation later attended a briefing at Air Headquarters on the organization, role and functioning of Pakistan Air Force.

(The report is prepared by Wilson John, Senior Fellow, ORF)