Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pakistan Air Force refocuses on militant threat



The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) used F-16, F-7 and Mirage fighter aircraft to conduct bombing missions against simulated militant targets in the country's remote Thal desert on 5 September.

On the same day, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the chief of army staff, was invited by Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, chief of the air staff, to receive first-hand briefings on changes within the PAF, which is keen to demonstrate its transition from a force focused on countering India to a central player in the country's campaign against Taliban militants in its northern regions.

Gen Kiyani and ACM Qamar also visited the PAF's Combat Commander's School, Pakistan's 'Top Gun' pilot training centre, at Mushaf Air Base in Sargodha, in an event also attended by Jane's .

The fighters' display in the Thal desert was the high point of the PAF's 'Saffron Bandit' exercise: a regular event once focused on the PAF's operational preparedness against India but now repurposed to prepare for action against domestic militants.

According to senior PAF officers, 70 to 80 per cent of the activities in 'Saffron Bandit' have been geared towards anti-militant operations in an indication of how much the PAF has shifted focus.

The event at Sargodha was also used by the PAF to showcase its Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) system – an indigenously built system developed over the past five to six years, which enables the PAF to record missions or view them in real time from a range of angles.

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