ISLAMABAD — The top Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief has outlined plans for greater indigenous design and technical/industrial input with its next fighter, which it hopes to realize under the Vision 2030 program.
In an interview aired by the national broadcaster PTV, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman said Vision 2030 aims for greater indigenization of avionics, communication systems, and other subsystems and components for a fifth generation fighter.
He accepted there are budgetary and research challenges, but said human resources and infrastructure was being developed to ensure that 10-15 years from now these goals could be achieved.
A major aspect of this is Aviation City near Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, the home of Pakistan’s aviation industry, which will have its own higher education facilities to nurture talent for the indigenization process.
The Chinese Shenyang J-31, (or development thereof), is strongly speculated to be Pakistan’s choice of fifth generation fighter. However, author, analyst and former Air Force pilot Kaiser Tufail believes this is still unclear, but “emphasis on an indigenous design” is serious.
The air chief “is well aware of the limitations in exercising full operational autonomy over foreign-supplied weapon systems. Additionally, the perennial issue of sanctions has hobbled PAF’s front-line fighters continually, something that a small air force can ill-afford,” he said.
As also outlined by Aman, Tufail believes the JF-17 program laid the groundwork and “instilled sufficient confidence” to consider moving from a 50-50 partnership, as with the JF-17, to one featuring perhaps 70 percent to 80 percent “local design and production.”
Tufail thinks the existing, “highly qualified and well-trained crop of engineers and technicians” are ready to take up the challenge and can form the nucleus of a wider knowledge and technical pool to provide “the basic wherewithal which can be tailored to the new requirements without much difficulty.”
However, he said a failure to turn around Pakistan’s “mismanaged and under-taxed national economy” will effectively doom the program as increased defense spending “does not go well with political governments whose focus always remains on showy development projects.”