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Thursday, June 2, 2011

PAF-PLAAF Bonhomie Scaling New Heights

The five decade-old bonhomie between the air forces of China and Pakistan witnessed another significant step forward last March when the People’s Liberation Army’s Air Force (PLAAF) for the first time ever took part in an operational air exercise—codenamed Shaheen-1—with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) within Pakistani airspace. Two PLAAF Su-30MKK heavy multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA), accompanied by a 12-member complement of ground support crew, visited the PAF’s air bases in Rawalpindi (PAF Base Chaklala), Kamra (PAF Base Minhas) and Sargodha (PAF Base Mushaf) where a series of dissimilar air combat exercises were conducted with the PAF’s Dassault Aviation Mirage IIIP, Mirage VP and Chengdu/PAC Kamra JF-17 Thunder MRCAs, in addition to conducting mid-air refuelling sorties with the PAF’s four newly acquired IL-78MKP aerial refuelling tankers. Officially, the exercises were designed to share mutual experiences, hone professional skills and accrue maximum benefits from the expertise of the two air forces. But in reality, the air exercises are widely seen as the beginning of a formalised process of collaborating on a range of air combat training-related issues that include all-weather airborne battle management with the help of airborne early warning and control (AEW & C) platforms, and both within-visual-range and beyond-visual-range air combat doctrines and tactics.

The two visiting Su-30MKKs hailed from one of the three ‘Blue Army’ aggressor squadrons of the 8th PLAAF Flight Academy, which is the Chinese counterpart of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Gwalior-based Tactics & Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) and which has been modelled after the US Navy’s ‘Top Gun’ Naval Fighter Weapons School and the Naval Strike & Air Warfare Center, and the US Air Force’s 64th and 65th Aggressor squadrons at Nellis air force base in Nevada. The 8th PLAAF Flight Academy, which comes under the operational jurisdiction of the PLAAF’s Flight Test & Training Base (FT & TB) at Cangzhou air base in Hebei province, presently has three ‘Blue Army’ aggressor squadrons, each of which are equipped with four Su-27SKs and four Su-30MKKs, eight J-10A medium MRCAs, and eight J-7E light MRCAs. Commissioned in June 1987, these aggressor squadrons have been trained to act as ‘hostile bogeys’ during air combat exercises by simulating the air combat manoeuvring characteristics of US- and European-origin combat aircraft. These squadrons use enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures to give a realistic simulation of air combat (as opposed to training against one’s own forces). For the PLAAF, therefore, there is much to learn in terms of dissimilar air combat tactics from the PAF, especially since the latter has, for almost a decade, participated in multinational air exercises with NATO and non-NATO air forces in both Turkey (under the Anatolian Eagle series) and the US (the Red Flag series). For the PAF, in turn, there is much to learn from the PLAAF in terms of the latter’s expertise—acquired over the past six years—in planning and executing offensive and defensive air campaigns in which AEW & C platforms and Su-30MKKs are the major participants. The PLAAF in future will also be training the PAF to operate the four ZDK-03 AEW & C platforms which are due for delivery by China’s CETC International from later this year. The four ZDK-03s will be employed by the PAF specifically for directing and managing the air campaigns waged by the PAF’s fleet of Mirage IIIPs and Mirage VPs, JF-17 Thunder, F-7PG and (in future) FC-20 MRCAs. The four Saab 2000 AEW & C platforms, on the other hand, will be employed for directing and managing the air campaigns waged by the PAF’s fleet of Lockheed Martin-built Block 52 F-16A/B/C/D MRCAs and the Mirage IIIPs and Mirage VPs.

The PAF and PLAAF, along with companies like China’s CETC International and Pakistan’s Wah cantonment-based Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO), have, since 2008, been also working together on developing a rangeless dissimilar air combat training system (DACTS) and an air combat manoeuvring instrumentation (ACMI) system, both of which, by using GPS technology, allow pilots to train in any available airspace without reliance on a ground-based, tethered range. A rangeless ACMI system can support up to 100 high-activity aircraft and up to 100 simultaneous weapons-launch simulations in a single training exercise. While the IAF had acquired two sets of ‘EHUD’ rangeless DACTS/ACMI training aids worth US$42 million from Israel Aircraft Industries’ (IAI) MLM Division in the late 1990s, and followed it by acquiring a supplementary system—comprising digital video-cum-data recorders (DVDR) and ground debriefing systems (GDS)—for its Su-30MKIs from Israel’s RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, such training aids have, to date, remained elusive for both the PAF and PLAAF due to US and EU export control regulations imposed since the late 1980s. The kind of DACTS/ACMI systems now sought by China and Pakistan are presently made by companies such as DIEHL/BGT Defence GmbH of Germany (maker of the Flight Profile Recorder system), US-based DRS Defense Solutions Inc and Cubic Defense Systems, Israel’s IAI/MLM Division RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, Singapore’s Prescient Systems & Technologies (a subsidiary of Singapore’s ST Electronics), and Dong Ji Inter-Tech of South Korea. Given the unavailability of DACTS/ACMI systems being made available for export from Europe, Israel and the US, it appears highly likely that the PAF and PLAAF will eventually procure such systems from the Far East.
The rangeless DACTS/ACMI system being sought by the PAF and PLAAF will have four main elements: the ACMI pod, DVDR, real-time monitoring station (RTMS), and GDS. Designed with the same aerodynamics performance of an actual air combat missile, the ACMI pod is an exact replica of the air combat missile whose performance needs to be simulated. The homogeny includes its physical dimensions, weight, mechanical and, electrical and electromagnetic interference characteristics. The pod allows for real-time data transmission, reception and relay between the aircraft and a ground-based RTMS, as well as a GDS for combat outcome assessment and debriefing. The ACMI pod, incorporated with GPS technology, is retrofitted on to the aircraft. The flight data is captured and recorded in data cartridges that can be easily removed for after-action review at the RTMS or GDS. The combat and flight data of the air crew is relayed by the pod to the RTMS. This data is then used to monitor the training scenarios in real-time as well as to conduct post-flight debrief during the after-action reviews. Data recorded and stored by the DVDR is used to reconstruct the spatial flight patterns of all participating aircraft, superimposed on a three-dimensional representation of the mission terrain. Data among all aircraft is automatically synchronised by the GDS. When two screens are used (one for three-dimensional imagery, the other for video), both displays are synchronised as well with no user intervention. All viewing angles and directions, whether from within the cockpits or outside, are user-selectable and adjustable. The GDS is capable of conducting simultaneous, synchronised recording and playback of numerous digital channels, carrying audio and video from multiple sources. The system supports specialty features such as simulation and analysis tools for mission debriefing, and military unit data management. Utilising COTS-based PC technology, the GDS is designed for advanced squadron-level post-flight debriefing.—Prasun K. Sengupta


Anonymous said...


The maximum range of Astra Mk1 is to be 80 km in head-on chase and 20 km in tail chase,but you have written it about to be 44 km and the Astra Mk2 to be 80 km. Please explain.
What will be the Beyond-visual engagement range, at which BVR engagement takes place, of the following missiles the Astra Mk-2,the Derby,the Mica and the RVV-SD?
Why the Derby missile is comparatively lighter at 110 kg while the Astra Mk1 is heavier at 150kg? Can't measures be taken to make it lighter? The Astra Mk2 will have about twice the range of Astra Mk1,so does it mean it will about 1.5 times heavier.Will steps be taken to make it lighter like use of composites? Will Astra Mk2 will have the same seeker as that of the Astra Mk1?

Anonymous said...

Hi..........any news/progress on the various acquisitions ??? The CCS was to meet today, i think...........the list gets longer by the day/one should do a Anna/Ramdev for Defence too !!!!

Qamar said...

Prasun K. Sengupta great article


I think this exercise may have another angle, ie. providing PAF with perfect opportunity to train against its most likely oponent i.e. Su-30MKI armed with R-77 supported by A-50I

Although Su-30MKK and KJ-2000 are less capable then the Su-30MI & A-50I but still provide PAF with good look around.

few days ago i saw few pics of J-15 with canard and i am wondering why PLAAF is not using those on its J-11B/BS?

any news on the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) when is it going to be operational and when how many IA is going to acquire? and i also heard rumors of PA pushing US for AH-1Z once it becomes available, is there any truth in them?

""The maximum range of Astra Mk1 is to be 80 km in head-on chase and 20 km in tail chase,but you have written it about to be 44 km and the Astra Mk2 to be 80 km.""

Change in altitude and speed of launch aircraft can increase or decrease the range of any BVR missiles and beside that it is no escape zone which is more important then the maximum range.

Prasun sir, can you enlighten us more on the subject by providing some details about the launch speed and altitude of the aircraft for these ranges of Astra?

once IAF decides on the MMRCA, it will get Meteor BVR which will outclass both PL-12 and amraam in pakistani service

Anonymous said...

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@3.58PM: The DF-21C MRBM is expected to replace the rather unsuccessful M-18/Shaheen-2 MRBM. Specs for the P-20 are more or less the same as those of the Iskander-E.

To Anon@4.02PM: Pakistan’s Army and Air Force have been procuring Mi-17s for utility/air transportation purposes since the early 1990s.

June 2, 2011 12:51 AM

But the range of Iskander-E is around 300kilometers while nasr was reported to have range of only 60 kilometers?

yes as you said PA is purchasing Mi-17s from 1990s but latest rumors suggest their interest in MI-35 for their SSG for a flying APC/IFV type of a role, u know after Americans denied them AH-1Z and AH-64 because of Indian fear :D

buddha said...

is Surya amyth ... ?

is india making Agni-6 land/ slbm MIRV
is it cannister launch version like shaurya
I read somewhere India is making long range super sonic cruise missile
if so then it will provide India good chance of surgical attack capacity with bramhos air super & hyper sonic(290km) , nirbhoy sub sonic sonic(1000km)and Lcrm super & hyper sonic (700 km)

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@3.25PM: R & D work on the Astra BVRAAM is a long drawn-out process and there are several core technological competencies that have yet to be achieved by the DRDO. For instance, the terminal active radar is of all Russian origin (from AGAT JSC), and more efficient solid rocket motor-based propulsion systems and related thrust vector systems are still under development. Therefore, it is for these reasons that the Astra will be produced in an initial Mk1 configuration and later the definitive Mk2 configuration. Incorporation of thrust vector systems on the rocket nozzle will then obviate the need for the bulkier control fins and this will then reduce the BVRAAM’s weight.

To Qamar: The Indian Army Aviation Corps has projected a reqmt for 114 LCHs, but has not yet placed any orders for them. If all goes as per plans, then the first of 65 LCHs for the IAF could roll out by late 2014.

To Anon@6.50PM: The range of the Hatf-9/Nasr is by no means limited to 60km. If you recall when the Babur LACM was first test-fired its range was given as 500km and after the second test-firing it was given as 800km, when we all know that the CJ-10 from which the Babur is derived has a range of up to 1,500km. So just wait for and see the second test-firing of the Nasr (whenever it takes place) and after that the Pakistan Army will disclose more about the real range of the Nasr. And FYI the Pakistan Army has been interested in the Mi-25/Mi-35P since the mid-1980s from the day it got to lay its hands on the defecting Afghan Mi-25s. This is nothing new.

To Buddha: The Surya ICBM is definitely a myth. The Agni-5 will be a cannisterised land-launched MRBM with MIRV nuclear warheads. The supersonic cruise missile is in fact the tactical nuclear warhead-carrying air-delivered munition (ADM) similar to the French ASMP in role, performance and appearance. It also has the potential to be submarine-launched.

Anonymous said...


You have written the RVV-SD to be having a maximum range of 110 km.I want to know at what altitude it will have that range?
I have read somewhere that the Astra Mk-2 will have a maximum range of about 150 km while you have written it to be about 80 km. I want to know at what altitude it will have a maximum range of 150 km and at what altitude it will have the range of 80 km.
Will DRDO use the Two-Pulse Rocket Motor technology used in the Barak-2 SAM also in the Astra Mk-2?What about the seeker?

We all know the Russians were more efficient in building SAMs. So why India choose Barak-2 over S-300/S-400 SAM systems?Is it better and more versatile?

The Barak-2 LR-SAM will be an endo-stratospheric interceptor. Can it be designed to intercept ballistic missiles in the exo-atmosphere like the US THAAD?


Anonymous said...

Hi Prasun,
There are recent reports that the recently ordered 42 batch of sukhoi fighters will cost india 120 mil each, is there any particular reason for this high cost
IS it inclusive of some specialised equipment or some special configuration.
Also what is the total number of su30mki in indian air force right now.

Anonymous said...

To Anon@6.50PM: Pakistan Army has been interested in the Mi-25/Mi-35P since the mid-1980s from the day it got to lay its hands on the defecting Afghan Mi-25s. This is nothing new.

Well this time Russia seems to interested in selling

Anonymous said...

is it true that Boeing has shown interest in selling EA-18G Growler to India . if yes then to whom iaf or in . is there a chance of India buying them

flanker143 said...

sorry for asking again....i lost the pev link....

but can plz post a link with some good info regarding spectra ews....

also can u plz name the equipment will the mayawi ews will finally have....

Anonymous said...

Mr Sengupta go to Shiv Aroor's blog and see Indian built Arudhra radar inducted into IAF. Next time remember this before commenting.

Anonymous said...

Dude plz check before u report sumting... most of u r report seem to be fancy dream...

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@10.12AM: The RVV-SD’s maximum range will be at the max launch altitude. The same will apply to the Astra Mk2 as well. No components of the Barak-2 will be incorporated into the Astra Mk2 BVRAAM. India chose the Barak-2 over the S-300/S-400 LR-SAMs for a very simple reason: the Barak-2 involved co-development whereas the S-300/S-400 were being offered off-the-shelf. The Barak-2 will not have the same performance parameters as the superior THAAD.

To Anon@3.45PM: The cost is inclusive of many other variables, not just the aircraft. Different kinds of spares packages are purchased at different periods in different batches.

To Anon@8.14PM: The EA-18G Growler was offered to the IAF as part of the Super Hornet IN package.

To Anon@10.48PM & 11.22PM: Need I remind you that Shiv Aroor’s blog does not have the final say on whether or not the Arudhra MPR is an India-built product? Go to my latest upload and you will find out that photos never lie. As for reports being fancy dreams, you really ought to convey this message to those who have claimed that the Arudhra is an India-built product, dude.

Anonymous said...

Prasun K Sengupta to Anon@10.48PM & 11.22PM: Need I remind you that Shiv Aroor’s blog does not have the final say on whether or not the Arudhra MPR is an India-built product? Go to my latest upload and you will find out that photos never lie. As for reports being fancy dreams, you really ought to convey this message to those who have claimed that the Arudhra is an India-built product, dude.

... but photoshopped photos always lie, especially when it passes thru Chorgupta