The conduct of the 14-day EX Gagan Shakti full-spectrum air-exercises by the Indian Air Force (IAF) from April 8 till 22, 2018 served as the first declaratory signalling by India that a coherent politico-military policy has at last emerged with regard to determining the final status of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). It has thereby added the much-required teeth to India’s national endeavour, which was undertaken on February 22, 1994 when India’s Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution that firmly declared that the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J & K) has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means, and that Pakistan must unconditionally withdraw from PoK, which it had forcibly occupied through military means.
This parliamentary articulation of a position hitherto implicit or left understated was, in fact, a tectonic change that many at that time had failed to grasp. But while India’s armed forces had grasped and understood the full politico-military implications of this resolution, it was the succeeding political leaderships of the country that had until the recent past failed to muster the necessary will and grit required for wresting back PoK from Pakistan through the conduct of a ‘just AirLand military campaign, i.e. a full-scale high-intensity limited war with limited objectives under a nuclear overhang.
Under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh ’Tony’ Dhanoa, the IAF had over the past eight months geared up for undertaking joint effects-based AirLand campaigns along with the Indian Army (IA). The five principal doctrinal underpinnings of the IAF were exercised and validated, these being persistence, persuasion, compellence, endurance and jointness. Consider the following:
1) The IAF for the first time carried out duck-drops, an air-mobile operation, of military boats and special operations forces over the country’s highest dam for drills to use waterbodies to infiltrate into enemy territory and launch attacks on their bases. The reservoir of the Tehri dam in Uttarakhand was used for the exercise by the IAF’s Western Air Command for simulating a waterbody acting as a border between India and its neighbor Pakistan. The IAF used its C-130J-30 Super Hercules transports from the Hindon air base, which first dropped a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB), followed by a team of Garud personnel who used the waterbody to launch attacks on enemy bases in order to make inroads into their areas. The C-130J-30s, flying at low-level, were also used for air-dropping the IA’s SF (Para) forces at low heights to the waterbody in a window of 30 seconds to a minute. These sorties were all provided air-cover by escorting MiG-29UPG medium-multi-role combat aircraft (M-MRCA).
This operation is identical to the one that is likely to be undertaken by a joint IA-IAF air-assault strike force in the event of the order being given to capture the Marala Headworks north of Sialkot along the Sialkot-Chhamb sector of operations.
2) In another drill, eight Mi-17V5 medium-lift helicopters was used to rapidly deploy troops to the Nyoma heli-base, a few kilometres from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and Tangste valley at an altitude of 13,500 feet.
This operation is identical to the one that is likely to be undertaken by a joint IA-IAF air-assault strike force in the event of the order being given to capture certain critical hel-bases like the one at Goma in PoK.
3) In another high-voltage operation, the Gaggal airport near Dharamsala was simulated as a hostile advanced landing ground (ALG) beyond India’s border that had to be captured and used as a forward air base for the IAF and as a firm base. A small team of 14 heavily-armed Garud commandos first neutralised the enemy personnel based there under the cover of darkness. The entire simulated attack was carried out at around dawn to catch the enemy by surprise and within 30 minutes, the whole ALG was sanitised. The Garuds then used a high-tech SATCOM radio to signal the follow-on C-130J-30s and An-32REs, which were orbiting in friendly airspace loaded with SF (Para) elements, to arrive at the ALG and launch their ground-attacks.
This operation is identical to the one that is likely to be undertaken by a joint IA-IAF air-assault strike force in the event of the order being given to capture critical airports like the ones at Rawalakot and Skardu in PoK.
4) In another joint operation, the IAF and a Battalion of the IA’s Agra-based Parachute Brigade carried out an airborne assault with 560 patatroopers and wheeled light combat vehicles loaded on GPS guided palletised packages in the desert sector on the night of April 12. The air-assault force was dropped behind simulated enemy lines to soften up the likely resistance prior to the pred-dawn commencement of an armoured offensive by a Brigade-sized integrated battle group (IBG). This operation was provided hardened and dynamic air-dominance by Su-30MKI H-MRCAs.
This operation is identical to the one that is likely to be undertaken by a joint IA-IAF air-assault strike force in the event of the order being given to capture certain critical areas within the Chicken’s Neck area straddling southern J & K.
Decoding The IAF’s Mobilisation & Sustained Surge Matrix
According to on-the-record statements made by IAF HQ, EX Gagan Shakti commenced in the west, involving two Air Commands in Phase-1, followed by three air commands being involved in the east in Phase-2. More than 1,100 aircraft–half of them combat aircraft hailing from 31 squadrons–logged more than 6,000 flight-hours in the four days, accounting for the launch of more than 5,000 sorties in a ‘sustained surge’ method that comprised missions ranging from long-distance precision strikes, interdiction of land-based and maritime targets, attacks against ground-based targets of opportunity in the tactical battle area (TBA), and robust multi-layered air defence. The combat aircraft involved in the exercise recorded a serviceability rate of 80%, compared to a target of 75% during peacetime, and a despatch reliability of more than 95%. Radars and air-defence artillery systems maintained a serviceability of 97%. A 95% dispatch rate of combat assets, 100% availability of combat support systems (like AEW & CS platforms and aerial refuelling aircraft), 100% despatch availability rate of combat enablers were also achieved. A Battalion-level airborne drop in the second phase of the exercise in the deserts of Rajasthan, coupled with the speedy inter-valley and inter-theatre switching of forces (within 48 hours) involving the entire array of the IAF’s modern and legacy airlift capability (C-17As, C-130J-30s, IL-76MDs, An-32REs and Mi-17 helicopters of varied sophistication) demonstrated a persuasiveness that has been a work-in-progress over the past few years. All in all, 11,000 sorties were flown, of which 9,000 were combat sorties over the 14-day period. In short, EX Gagan Shakti was not about learning tactical lessons, but was instead focussed on checking the IAF’s institutional logistics stamina in order to build up and sustain the high serviceability levels of hardware, as well as reflect a willingness to convert doctrinal pronouncement into deliverables, thereby ensuring conventional military deterrence on both fronts (western and eastern).
But is the figure of 11,000 sorties logged in reflective of a full-scale conventional involving massive retaliation? Or is it strongly indicative of just a limited high-intensity AirLand campaign that was limited in both scope, nature and theatre frontage? It appears that the latter was the case, since the undertaking of the former would have involved the striking of 12 mandatory target-sets, with the methodology for producing the daily attack plans involving synthesizing many inputs—battle damage assessment (BDA) from previous attacks, operational theatre-level guidance, weather, target set priorities, new targets, intelligence, and the air campaign objectives. The target sets are by nature interrelated and cannot be targetted individually. The available aircraft, special operations forces (SOF), and other assets then are assigned missions on the basis of ability and the most effective use of force. The following are the mandatory target-sets:
Leadership Command Facilities
The intent here is to fragment and disrupt the enemy’s political and military leadership by attacking the command-and-control nodes of military forces, internal security elements, and key nodes within the government. The attacks should cause the leaders to hide or relocate, making it difficult for them to control or even keep pace with events. The target-set’s primary objective is to incapacitate and isolate senior decision-making authorities. Specifically targetted are facilities from which the military leadership would attempt to coordinate military actions. Targets therefore include national-level political and military headquarters and command posts throughout the country.
Electricity Production Facilities
Electricity is vital to the functioning of any modern military and industrial power, and disrupting the electrical supply can make destruction of other facilities unnecessary. Disrupting the electricity supply to key facilities degrades a wide variety of crucial capabilities, from the early-warning airspace surveillance radar sites that warn of air-strikes, to the refrigeration used to preserve biological weapons (BW), to nuclear weapons production facilities. To do this effectively requires the disruption of virtually the entire national electric grid, to prevent the re-routing of power around damaged nodes. Although back-up generators sometimes are available, they usually are slow to come on-line, provide less power than main sources, and are not as reliable. During switch-over from main power to a back-up generator, computers drop off-line, temporary confusion ensues, and other residual problems can occur. Because of the fast pace of a massed and synchronised air-attack, even milliseconds of enemy power disruption can mean the difference between life and death for aircrews.
Telecommunications and Command, Control, and Communication Nodes
The ability to issue orders to military and security forces, receive reports on the status of operations, and communicate with senior political and military leaders is crucial to the enemy’s deployment and use of forces. To challenge the enemy’s C3I networks, bombing of microwave relay towers, telephone exchanges, switching rooms, fibre-optic nodes, and bridges that carry co-axial communications cables, is imperative. These national communications networks can be re-established and so, require persistent re-strikes. These either silence them or force the enemy’s leadership to use back-up systems vulnerable to eavesdropping that produce valuable intelligence, particularly in the period before the commencement of large-scale and multi-pronged ground campaigns. Civil TV and radio facilities can be used easily for C3I backup for military purposes. Thus, these installations also need to be struck.
Strategic Integrated Air-Defence System
This is one of the more important immediate target-sets; before friendly airpower can exercise its full aerial bombardment potential, the effectiveness of the hostile air force and ground-based air defences have to be reduced to negligible proportions. Targets include the mid- and upper-level air-defence control centres, SAM sites, radar sites, and the C3I nodes that connect the system.
Air Forces And Air Bases
Hostile air forces always pose both a defensive threat to air operations, and an offensive threat (especially when launching nuclear WMD-armed precision-guided weapons) to forces located in their own territory. Consequently, initial targeting of the hostiler air force must emphasize the suppression of air operations launched from air bases by cratering and mining runways, bombing aircraft, maintenance and storage facilities, and attacking C3I facilities like military air-traffic management sites. It is generally anticipated that the enemy initially would attempt to fly large numbers of defensive sorties, requiring an extensive counter-air effort. It is also to be expected that the enemy will house and protect its aircraft in hardened shelters. An attempt to fly some aircraft to sanctuary in a neighboring country also is to be expected.
WMD Research, Production and Storage Facilities
The friendly air force’s air campaign planners must always endeavour to destroy WMD weapons research and production capability and delivery vehicles. However, because of the enemy’s elaborate efforts to hide the extent of their WMD-related programmes, a degree of uncertainty of their exact deployment footprint is always there.
Ballistic/Cruise Missiles, Launchers And Their Production/Storage Facilities
Such weapons are considered a military and a psychological threat to friendly military forces, a threat to civilian populations, and a threat to ground-based industrial infrastructure. Along with targetting the fixed ballistic/cruise missile launch-sites, the air campaign planners also need to target the enemy’s ability to deploy existing missiles and build more. Initial air-strikes must concentrate on eliminating the fixed sites, while plans also need to be developed for hunting and destroying mobile launchers, but the missiles themselves can prove to be elusive targets.
Naval Forces And Port Facilities
Although the enemy may not be a major naval power, its naval forces can still posed a threat to friendly naval and amphibious forces, and sealift assets. With the help of shore-based and air-launched anti-ship cruise missiles and sea-mines, the enemy can create a substantial political and military problem by destroying or seriously damaging a principal surface combatant. Hence, the enemy’s naval vessels, port facilities, and coastal ASCM launch-sites need to be struck from the air.
Oil Refining And Distribution Facilities
Fuel and lubricants are the lifeblood of any industrial and military power. They are produced by petroleum extraction, cracking, and distillation systems. Hence, the enemy’s ability to produce refined oil products (such as gasoline) that have immediate military use, instead of its long-term crude oil production capability, need to be targetted.
Railroads And Bridges
Most major railroad and highway bridges are the enemy’s lifelines when it comes to the logistical support of ground forces that frequently need to switch operating frontages. Hence, cutting the bridges and railroad culverts prevents or reduces re-stocking, and prevents reinforcement of the enemy’s deployed forces.
Hostile Strike Corps Reserves
The enemy’s means of projecting power into one’s own territory is centered on its ground forces deployed in the rear-areas that either make use of internal lines of communications for swift deployments, or choose to dig into strong positions built to defend against ground attacks. However, they are vulnerable to air-attack, which can reduce the combat effectiveness of these forces by about 50% before the friendly force’s own ground offensive commences.
Military Storage and Production Sites
The long-term combat effectiveness of any large military force depends on military production facilities and continued support from its logistical bases. Destruction of repair facilities, spare parts supplies, and storage depots serve to degrade the enemy’s combat capability. Usually, there are too many targets to be eliminated entirely. For example, there may be less than 10 primary and 20 secondary ammunition storage facilities alone identified on target-lists; with each being composed of scores of individual storage bunkers. Consequently, the planners first need to destroy the most threatening production facilities and stored materiels, then methodically to proceed with attacks on other storage and production facilities as time and assets would allow.
Thus far in the post World War-2 era, an air campaign involving the concurrent/synchronised targetting of all 12 target-sets has been set in motion only once—Operation Desert Storm in early 1991. Such an AirLand campaign, involving a ‘shaking of the heavens and splitting the Earth’, literally bombed Iraq back into the stone-age. This was achieved through a five week-long (43-day) air campaign in which the multinational coalition flew more than 100,000 sorties and dropped 88,500 tons of munitions. The aerial strike force was made up of more than 2,250 combat aircraft, which included 1,800 US aircraft (including those launched from six US Navy Carrier Battle Groups, with each Group logging some 4,300 combat sorties), the US Marine Corps’ about 240 aircraft (about 9% of the total), and the other coalition partners contributing more than 600 aircraft (about 25% of the total)—all of which fought against an Iraqi force of about 550 combat aircraft of which 259 were destroyed (105 being lost in combat, of which 36 were shot down in aerial combat and of these 22 were downed by AIM-7F Sparrow BVRAAMs and nine by AIM-9L Sidewinder SRAAMs). In addition, 68 fixed wing aircraft and 13 helicopters were destroyed while on the ground, and 137 aircraft were flown to Iran and never returned. A total of 297 Tomahawk T-LAMs and 35 AGM-86C conventional air launched cruise missiles (launched from seven B-52Gs) were fired against eight targets in northern Iraq, including hydroelectric and geothermal power plants near Mosul, and the telephone exchange in Basra. The classified code-name for this air-strike was Senior Surprise. Launched during a 10-minute period from about 100 miles south of the Iraqi-Saudi border near the town of Ar Ar, 31 of them hit their targets. The US Navy fired 288 TLAMs from 16 warships and two submarines.
The USAF’s 42 F-117As flew approximately 2% (1,271) of fixed-wing attack sorties, and struck about 40% of the strategic targets. The 120 F-15 C/Ds flew more than 5,900 sorties and maintained a 94% mission-capable rate—8% higher than in peacetime. The 48 F-15Es logged in 2,200 sorties and 95.9% mission-capable rate—8% higher than in peacetime. The 144 A-10s flew almost 8,100 sorties and maintained a mission-capable rate of 95.7%--5% above peacetime rates. The 84 F-111s logged 4,000 sorties had a mission-capable rate of 85%--8% higher than peacetime rates. The 18 EF-111s Ravens flew 900 sorties with a mission-capable rate of 87.5 %, while and the 48 F-4G Wild Weasals flew 2,500 sorties with a 87% mission-capable rate. The 249 F-16C/Ds (including 72 LANTIRN-capable) flew almost 13,500 sorties and maintained a 95.2% mission-capable rate—5 % above its peacetime rate. LANTIRN’s mission-capable rate was in excess of 98%. The B-52G Stratofortresses flew 1,624 missions, dropped 72,000 weapons, delivered 25,700 tons of munitions on area targets, and had a mission-capable rate of 81%--2 % higher than its peacetime rate. The B-52Gs dropped 29% of all US bombs and 38% of all USAF bombs during the war. More than 50 SOF-related aircraft were deployed inside the war zone at any given time, including helicopters and AC/EC/MC/HC-130s. These flew more than 830 missions. SOF crews also recovered downed aircrew members and provided valuable target identification and HUMINT work. The USMC’s participation included AV-8B Harriers from five units (86 aircraft, including 26 that operated from LHDs). Altogether, they flew 3,567 sorties (most of any USMC-type) and five of them were lost in combat and two to accidents. They delivered 6,000 tons of munitions. The loss-rate per 1,000 sorties was 1.4 (highest of any strike aircraft). Comparable loss-rates were 0.37 (F-16), 0.69 (A-10) and 0.91 (F-15E). The USMC loss-rate per fleet was 5.81%. Average bomb-load per sortie was 3,364 (heavier than that of the F/A-18’s and A-6E’s bomb-loads at 2,000kg each). Surge rate was 3.5 sorties per day. The USMC’s 20 A6E Intruders logged in 854 sorties, dropped an average of 4,000 lbs of munitions per sortie, and drooped a total of 1,708 tons of munitions. The 84 F/A-18s (including 12 F-18D Night Attack variants) flew 5,047 sorties, while the 20 OV-10 Bronco FAC aircraft fleet suffered two losses (10% of deployed strength) and flew 593 sorties, the 12 EA-6B Prowlers flew 516 sorties, the 15 KC-130 aerial refuellers flew 1,267 sorties, the 78 AH-1W SeaCobra attack helicopters flew 1,273 sorties (suffering one combat loss and another to an accident), the 50 UH-1 utility helicopters flew 1,016 sorties (suffering a single loss to an accident), the 120 CH-46 Sea Knight utility helicopters flew 1,601 sorties and suffered one loss to an accident, while the 75 CH-53 Sea Stallion heavylift helicopters flew 2,045 sorties.
The Royal Air Force contributed 60 Tornado GR.1s (which flew more than 1,500 operational sorties and suffered six losses in combat), six Tornado GR.1As for tactical reconnaissance, 18 Tornado F-3s for air-defence, 12 Jaguars (flying 617 combat missions and only seven sorties being lost to unserviceability), and 12 Buccaneer S.Mk.2Bs that flew 250 sorties, with not one being cancelled due to unserviceability. They ‘spiked’ a total of 169 LGBs for other aircraft as well as dropping a total of 48 LGBs of their own. The French Air Force deployed 28 Jaguars that flew 615 sorties in all and were escorted by Mirage F-1C-200s and Mirage 2000Cs.
Number of air-to-air missiles fired by US aircraft: 174
Number of anti-radiation missiles fired by coalition aircraft at Iraqi radars: 2,039
Number of dumb bombs dropped by coalition aircraft: 210,004, of which 39.336 were cluster munitions
Number of smart bombs (LGB/EO) dropped by claoition aircraft: 9,342
Number of air-to-ground missiles fired by coalition aircraft: 5,930
The opening salvo of OP Desert Storm was fired by the US Army’s Task Force Normandy’s two MH-53J Pave Low pathfinder helicopters and eight AH-64 Apaches that fired a total of 27 AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armour guided-missiles, 100 Hydra-70 rockets and 4,,000 rounds of 30mm ammunition. During the first 24 hours of the air campaign, more than 1,300 combat sorties were flown by fixed-wing aircraft of US and coalition forces, including 812 strike sorties (these including 100 SEAD/DEAD sorties (firing 200 AGM-88 HARM and ALARM anti-radiation missiles) against an Iraqi air-defence arsenal that comprised 16,000 SAMs and 7,000 AAA guns). These were backed up by 160 aerial refuelling tankers, three E-3A AWACS and two E-2C Hawkeyes. Of the 812 strike sorties, 300 of them were tasked to destroy airspace surveillance and military air-traffic management radars and telecommunications and C3I nodes. Of these 300 sorties, the first wave comprised 12 stealthy F-117A Night Hawks that successfully evaded detection from the 60 SAM sites and 3,000 anti-aircraft guns that had encircled Baghdad. A typical attack against an Iraqi air base saw 20 F-111s, each armed with four 2,000kb Mk.84 LGBs, making two passes each in an operation spanning about seven minutes in the target area. This meant an average weapon impact every five seconds. The Iraqi IADS was decapitated within 36 hours, while static hardened SAM sites were destroyed within four days. By D + 9, complete air supremacy was achieved.
About 15% of scheduled strike sorties during the first 10 days were cancelled due poor visibility or low overcast sky conditions. Cloud ceilings of 5,000 feet to 7,000 feet were common, especially during the ground campaign’s last few days. These conditions also had a negative effect on the ability to collect imagery and hindered the BDA process. Use of air-delivered munitions was affected by high humidity, fog, rain, and low clouds.
As far as combat-support systems go, 20,401 aerial refuelling sorties dispensed 178 million gallons of fuel to 60,543 receivers from USAF 46 KC-10s and 262 KC-1 35s, US Navy KA-6s and tanker-configured S-3s, KC-130s, and other coalition tankers (Saudi KE-3s, French C-135FRs, and nine RAF L-1011-500 Tristars and nine VC-10s that flew 381 missions). Altogether, the non-US aerial refuelling tankers flew more than 4,000 sorties, while the USAF ones flew more than 15,000 sorties.
AEW & CS platforms like the E-3A Sentry AWACS flew a total of 7,315 combat hours or four continuous orbits to control over 3,000 sorties a day, while maintaining a mission-capable rate of 98%--9% higher than in peacetime. They controlled 31,924 combat sorties and 20,401 aerial refuelling sorties. The USAF’s E-3As manned five orbits (four in Saudi Arabia and one in Turkey) and the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF( manned one to three over Saudi Arabia. Two E-8 JSTARS battlespace surveillance aircraft flew 54 combat sorties and supported 100% of mission taskings with a system availability rate of more than 80% and a mission-capable rate of 84.5%. JSTARS tracked everything that moved on the ground. From D-Day to G-Day, JSTARS operators logged more than 535 hours to locate, identify and target assembly areas, POL storage sites, ballistic missile launch areas and missile storage sites, convoys, trucks, armoured vehicles, and even SAM sites and field artillery emplacements. Coupled with F-16s battlefield air-interdiction platforms, JSTARS enhanced the kill-box approach to air-interdiction, which proved highly effective in destroying Iraqi equipment in the Kuwait Theatre of Operations (KTO). JSTARS thus effectively denied the enemy its night sanctuary and kept continual pressure on Iraqi ground troops in the KTO. The USAF’s 265 C-141B Starlifter and 85 C-5 Galaxy strategic airlifters, plus C-130E/Hs and KC-10As when self-deploying) flew 20,500 missions, carried 534,000 passengers, and hauled 542,000 tons of cargo. All in all, the airlifters moved 4.65 billion ton-miles. Sortie data on platforms like the U-2R, TR-1 and RC-135 Rivet Joint remain classified.
The multinational coalition lost 75 aircraft—52 fixed-wing aircraft and 23 helicopters, with 39 fixed-wing aircraft and five helicopters lost in combat. The US lost 28 fixed-wing aircraft and five helicopters; the British lost seven fixed-wing aircraft; the Saudi Arabians lost two; the Italians lost one; and the Kuwaitis lost one.
The US Army’s 274 AH-64A Apache attack helicopters from 15 Battalions fired 1,400 Hellfires (AGM-114A high-trajectory variant and the AGM-114C lower-trajectory minimum-smoke variant), 30mm high-explosive and high-explosive/dual-purpose ammunition and Hydra-70 unguided rockets, destroying 278 battle tanks, more than 600 light and armoured vehicles, 100+ pieces of field artillery, and about 900 other targets. The Apaches made a total of 652 operational flights during 83 missions. They were used primarily for armed night reconnaissance missions inside the KTO because of their night vision and videotape capabilities, which provided timely intelligence information to ground (Division) commanders. Twenty-nine, or 63%, of the 46 missions flown during the war were armed night reconnaissance missions. The 17 remaining missions comprised 10 attack, six security (an operation in which Apaches protected ground forces in a given area), one rescue, and one escort mission. However, the Apaches did engage enemy targets during 14 of the missions flown during the air campaign. On one mission against the Iraqi Republican Guards, the 1st Battalion of the 24th Aviation Brigade (1/24th) destroyed 32 T-72Ms, 60 other armoured vehicles, 38 AAA pieces, 64 wheeled vehicles, and other miscellaneous targets.
During the 28-hour ground campaign, the Apaches routinely operated 20km ahead of ground elements and shaped the battlefield through armed reconnaissance and attack operations. These deep-attack missions shaped the battlefield and set the terms for close operations. Such deep-attack operations cleared the way for mass pursuit operations by coalition land forces, which routed the Iraqi Army. The coalition’s ground offensives thus quickly turned to exploitation-and-pursuit operations. The tempo of the battle increased as the battlefield became non-linear. US Army Aviation resources thus provided the mobility, flexibility and agility required to continue the pursuit. Attack helicopter units placed continued pressure on the enemy while steadily increasing the tempo of battle to a point of inundation.
Battlefield awareness is the key to battlefield dominance. The I/J-band Orchidee system, despite only being at a prototype stage, was resurrected to become part of Operation Horus, as the French deployment for the KTO was known. The Orchidee was used to guide AH-64As of the US Army’s 18th Airborne Corps against massed Iraqi armoured forces (under the locate, fix and strike tactic). The Orchidee was mounted on a Eurocopter AS.532UL Super Puma helicopter with a Thomson-CSF Lotar (Le Centre Thomson d’Applications Radars) 75km-range battlefield surveillance radar, using an antenna that was retractable for takeoff and landing. Intelligence data was found to be of high-quality and was immediately available. This helicopter-borne battlefield surveillance radar proved valuable for Brigade and Divisional commanders and a vital command-and-control tool for massed, multi-directional strikes by attack helicopters. A total of 31 missions were flown: 26 operational and five training. In spite of being restricted to an altitude of 1,500 feet, the system proved capable of tracking all targets within a 20 x 20 square kilometre kill-box and of detecting (but not tracking) targets in a 40 x 40 square kilometre tactical battle area. Used for day and night operations, beginning on February 3, 1991 the Orchidee was employed in 50 hours of combat operations. Shortly after OP Desert Storm, the Orchidee programme was formally resurrected by the French Army. The system was re-named Horizon—the French acronym for helicoptere d’observation radar et d’investigation sur zone. The Horizon system can effectively be operated in two modes. In the first, the radar is operated autonomously with on-board data processing. In the second, one or more helicopters have a secure data-link to download information to a ground station for real-time processing and exploitation. The autonomous mode provides considerable flexibility, allowing the system operator to carry out on-board analysis of the raw radar data. An encrypted radio-link is used to send the results of the initial appraisal to the command echelons on the ground. The system can be deployed to a theatre of operation 1,000km away in less than five hours, and can be operated immediately. The encrypted radio-link can also be used to uplink information from the ground, providing the ability to change the mission profile, even once the helicopter is airborne. It can also be used to provide navigation information. Plots extracted from the radar are stored in on-board recorders and are analysed in real-time by the operator on a console in the helicopter’s main cabin. On the ground, intelligence specialists are able to utilise synthetic images that show detected traffic overlaid on a digital GIS map—either as hard-copy or in the form of a transparency.
Subcontinent’s Historical Track-Record Of Past Air Wars
The air forces of both India and Pakistan have so far not waged the kind of wars against one another that aimed at strategic strangulation or limitlessdestruction. In 1971, when Pakistan had just 19 squadrons against 34 fielded by India, for air-defence of the vulnerable areas (VA( and vulnerable points (VP( in the northern sector of the western front, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) flew a total of 1,417 sorties. These included 1,317 day sorties and 100 night sorties. A total of 11 IAF aircraft were shot down by PAF combat aircraft (as claimed by the PAF), all while egressing, after attacking PAF air bases or air-defence radars. For the defence of VAs and VPs in the southern sector, the PAF flew a total of 253 sorties. These included 167 day sorties and a measly 23 night sorties from Masroor, while Talhar generated 63 day sorties. Additionally, 43 combat air-patrol (CAP) sorties were flown over the tactical battle areas (TBA) in Thar and Kutch. Neither ingressing nor egressing IAF aircraft could be shot down, in what turned out to be an almost futile air-defence effort in the south. The Pakistan Army’s AAA, however, had a fair amount of success in being able to down five IAF aircraft.
130 sorties (40%) were reported by the PAF aircrew–in all candour–to be unsuccessful, either due to armament malfunctions or, because the targets could not be located and bombs were dropped in the general target vicinity on ‘dead reckoning’. The PAF flew a total of 288 offensive counter-air sorties, of which 158 were flown during the day and 130 were flown at night. 81 sorties (28% of the effort) were unsuccessful as the armament could not be delivered due to one of several reasons, these including inability to locate the target, armament delivery malfunction or interception by IAF combat aircraft. Five aircraft were lost during the missions, two during the day and three at night, amounting to a campaign attrition rate of 1.7%, which was considered within acceptable limits. Coming to offensive counter-air operations (10% of the total war effort), effects of the 186 tonnes of ordnance dropped in the 77 successful night-sorties were mixed. The 12-odd sorties flown for ‘suppression of enemy air-defences’ did not yield the desired results. Of the 146 day-sorties (including 35 escorting missions) flown against nine IAF air bases, damage caused to the runways was generally minor and was usually repaired within a few hours. The PAF flew a total of 296 sorties in the Shakargarh Sector, which made up 41% of the PAF’s total tactical air support effort. 183 sorties were considered successful, while 113 sorties were rated as failures. In Suleimanki Sector, 55 ground attack sorties were flown, of which 33 were considered successful. In 22 sorties, either no targets could be found or, bombs were released on dead reckoning with questionable results. In Hussainiwala Sector, a nominal 29 sorties were flown, and other than a mission claiming to have targetted the IA’s Firozpur ammunition dump, all were unsuccessful. 84 CAP sorties were flown. In all, 175 sorties (including 24 night-sorties) were flown in support of the Pakistan Army’s (PA) 18 Division in Chor, Ramgarh and Kutch Sectors. This formed one quarter of the total air support effort provided by the PAF during the war. In addition, 40 CAP sorties were flown. The real success of ground-based AAA came about over the battlefield, where 17 IAF aircraft were shot down in Chamb, Shakargarh, Lahore and Suleimanki sectors. The PAF flew 22 day-missions and 10 night-missions searching for the Indian Navy’s Project 205 FAC-Ms and other warships, none of which were successful. The PIA airline flew 59 sorties, while other civilain aircraft flew 68 sorties, all with their own crew.
The IAF’s strategic bombing campaign in the northern sector did not go beyond the three-odd missions. Interdiction of the railway system was seen as a far more lucrative exercise, due to the complete absence of any sort of defences. Also, tactical air-interdiction promised rapid results, which were of consequence to the on-going land battles, whereas the strategic strikes required a long-term concerted campaign and were antithetical to an envisaged short war. The IAF had a free hand in its tactical air-interdiction campaign against the railway network, along with a few attacks against targets of strategic importance. Lack of low-level radar cover meant that the IAF’s intruders came in completely unobserved and unmolested by PAF combat aircraft. Shortage of AAA assets resulted in these target areas being unguarded, leaving the IAF’s attackers with little to worry about during weapon delivery. The railway network on the Sialkot-Shahdara Section, Jhelum-Lahore Section, Lahore-Sahiwal Section, Shahdara-Lyallpur Section, Kasur-Arifwala Section, Mandi Sadiqganj-Samasatta Section and Bahawalpur-Lodhran Section was attacked incessantly. Twenty-five railway stations on these sections were targetted, with Wazirabad and Kasur receiving as many as five visits each. In general, the railway sectors selected for attacks were mostly those along which the Indians expected, or were aware, that the PA’s reinforcements might materialise. Sixteen trains were also attacked on these sections, while many track segments were damaged. Five of the attacked trains happened to be of ‘special military’ category. The damage incurred on these trains was, however, inconsequential. Neither was any PA movement impeded, nor were any vital supplies interdicted.
Detailed statistics of the air war effort of both the IAF and PAF can be seen below for comparison purposes.
In what shape did both the air forces emerge post-1971?
While the loss of East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh as a nation since late 1971 reduced the IAF’s operational orientation from a three-front scenario to a two-front one, for the PAF it resulted in a single-front scenario, i.e. its eastern front against India, thus resulting in the IAF becoming the PAF’s sole and perpetual enemy.
Today, the PAF can effectively muster only 20 combat-capable squadrons made up of some 300 serviceable combat aircraft (about 400 if reserve Mirage-III/-V airframes and primary/basic jet trainers are also included), that are supported by three combat-support squadrons (versus the IAF’s 33 combat squadrons and three combat-support squadrons).
These include about 45 Chengdu F-7PGs (upgraded with Selex-Galileo-supplied Grifo-F Mk.2 multi-mode radars), eight FT-7PG tandem-seat conversion trainers, about 90 Chengdu F-7P Skybolts (fitted with Grifo-F Mk.1 radars), 13 Chengdu FT-7P Skybolt conversion trainers, 28 Mirage-IIIEAs and four Mirage-IIIDPs in ROSE-I upgrade configuration, six Mirage-VDFs in ROSE-2 upgrade configuration, 14 Mirage-VEFs in ROSE-3 upgrade configuration, 100 JF-17 Thunders (deliveries continuing), and 45 F-16A/Cs and 31 F-16B/Ds.
Airframes held in reserve include 16 Mirage-IIIEPs, 11 Mirage-IIIELs, seven Mirage-IIIDAs, 11 Mirage-IIIRPs, nine Mirage-VPA3s, 30 Mirage-VPA2s, 28 Mirage-VPAs, and 30 Mirage-VDPA2s.
The entire combat fleet is spread out among 12 full-fledged air bases and 12 satellite air bases (the latest being Bholarii, Sindh, plus recent ones in Balochistan that include airfields in Gwadar, Pasni, Ormara, Dalbandin, Turbat and Panjgur from which both Pakistan Navy P-3C Orion MR/ASW aircraft and ZDK-03 Karakoram Eagle KE-3 AEW & CS platforms can operate) that come under the command-and-control of three Air Commands.
The Peshawar-based Northern Air Command comprises the Kamra-based No.33 Wing that includes the No.14 ‘Tail Choppers’ Sqn (flying JF-17s) and No.25 ‘Night Strike Eagles’ Sqn flying Mirage-VEFs in ROSE-2 upgrade configuration; and the Peshawar-based No.36 Wing that includes the No.16 ‘Panthers’ Sqn and No.26 ‘Black Spiders’ Sqn flying JF-17s.
The Sargodha-based Central Air Command comprises the Rafiqui-based No.34 Wing with No.15 ‘Cobras’ Sqn and No.18 ‘Sharp Shooters’ Sqn flying Mirage VPAs, No.20 ‘Cheetahs’ Sqn (flying F-7PGs) and No.27 ‘Zarrars’ Sqn (flying Mirage-VEFs in ROSE-3 upgrade configuration); Sargodha-based No.38 Wing with its No.9 ‘Griffins’ Sqn, No.11 ‘Arrows’ (Operational Conversion Unit) Sqn and No.19 ‘Sherdils’ Sqn flying Block-15 MLU F-16AM/BMs; and No.5 ‘Falcons’ Sqn flying F-16C/D Block-52s from Jacobabad.
The Masroor-based Southern Air Command comprises the Samungli-based No.31 Wing with its No.17 ‘Tigers’ Sqn and No.23 ‘Talons’ Sqn both flying F-7PGs, plus No.28 ‘Phoenix’ Sqn flying JF-17s; and the Masroor-based No.32 Wing with its No.2 ‘Minhas’ (equipped with JF-17s) Sqn, No.7 ‘Bandits’ Sqn flying Mirage-IIIEA/DPs in ROSE-I upgrade configuration and Mirage-VELs), No.8 ‘Haiders’ Sqn (flying Mirage-VPA2/3s), and No.22 ‘Ghazis’ (Operational Conversion Unit) Sqn flying Mirage-IIIDF/IIIDA/DL/EL variants.
All these are supported by the Kamra-based No.3 ‘Angels’ Sqn with four Saab 2000 AEW & C platforms, Masroor-based No.4 Sqn with four ZDK-03 Karakoram Eagle KE-3 AEW & CS platforms, and the Chaklala-based No.10 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) Sqn’s four IL-78MKPs. The PAF is now acquiring three additional Saab 2000 ‘Erieye’ AEW & C aircraft, with the first delivered last December and the remaining pair arriving later this year. The SEK 1.35 billion contract for these platforms was inked on May 15, 2017.
The PAF’s Chaklala, Rawalpindi-based Air Defence Command, through its RABTA integrated command-and-control system, exercises surveillance, control, and coordination of Pakistan’s airspace and air-defence identification zone (ADIZ that extends up to 80nm inside Indian airspace).
It is divided into three regional air commands: HQ NORSEC (Northern Sector) based at PAF Chaklala and falling under the control of the Northern Air Command; HQ CENSEC (Central Sector) at Sargodha under the Central Air Command; HQ WESSEC (Western Sector) based at Samungli (near Quetta, Balochistan) also falling under the command of Central Air Command; and HQ SOUSEC (Southern Sector) based at Faisal air base (in Karachi, Sindh) and falling under the control of the Southern Air Command.
The PAF’s six L-band Lockheed Martin TPS-77s high-power airspace surveillance radars along with a YLC-2V High Guard 3-D S-Band radar are located at Korangi Creek, Sakesar, Masroor, Kirana Hills, Rafiqui and Lower Topa.
The medium-power radars—comprising four L-band Northrop Grumman TPS-63s, four E.F-band TPS-43G radars and four S-band YLC-6M radars are commanded and operated by the PAF’s No. 481 Control & Reporting Centre (CRC) based at Lahore, No. 482 CRC based at Rafiqui, No.483 CRC at Samungli, No. 484 CRC based at Upper Topa, No.485 CRC at Kirana Hills, and No. 486 CRC based at Chaklala.
The 1980s vintage 68 SIEMENS-built SILLACS L-Band MPDR-45 (with 45km-range), MPDR-60 (with 60km-range) and MPDR-90 (with 90km-range) low-level gapfiller radars for protecting the VAs, VPs and air-corridor approaches to the air bases are operated by the No. 242 Sqn, No. 408 Sqn, No. 409 Sqn, No. 410 Sqn, No.471 Sqn, No. 541 Sqn and No. 904 Sqn.
For integral base-air defence, the PAF had by 2013 taken delivery from MBDA of 10 Batteries of SPADA-2000 SHORADS systems (with another five Batteries being optioned for). Its Euro415 million procurement contract was inked in 2007, and was inclusive of the supply of 750 missiles and the construction of two product-support facilities (commissioned in 2009) in Karachi. The first Battery was delivered in February 2010. Each SPADA-2000 Battery includes: a Detection Centre with a RAC-3D radar with 60km range, and up to four six-round missile launchers. They are backed-up by 40+ Rheinmetall GDF-005 Skyguard-3 air-defence cannons.
Like the PAF, the PA and Pakistan Navy (PN) too are upgrading their ground-based air-defence assets. For layered air-defence of its three sprawling Ballistic/cruise missile torage sites in Mangla, Kirana Hills and Masroor, the PA is now inducting CEIEC-supplied JY-27A 280km-range VHF radars and related TS-504 multi-point troposcatter communications relay systems, plus NORINCO-supplied CS-RB1 HGR-106 medium-power 210km-range gapfiller radars—all of which will be used by the PA’s three CPMIEC-supplied LY-80E MR-SAM/LOMADS Regiments and three CPMIEC-supplied FM-90 SHORADS Regiments.
The first FM-90 Battery was handed over on March 16, 2016, while the first LY-80E Battery was handed over on March 12, 2017. For point air-defence, the FN-6 VSHORADS in 2014 began replacing the QW-1/QW-2 (Shamelessly renamed as Anza Mk.1/Anza Mk.2) MANPADS.
The PA’s other battlefield AAA assets include 35mm Oerlikon Contraves GDF-005 cannons with Ericsson Giraffe radars (200 distributed among eight Brigades), NORINCO-supplied P793 37mm cannons, RBS-70 Rayrider VSHORADS mounted on M-113 ‘Mouz’ tracked APCs of the Light Air-Defence Self-Propelled Regiments, plus the newer PG-99s supplied by NORINCO.
The PN’s three Marine Battalions have inducted into service three CS-RB1 HGR-106 radars, along with NORINCO-supplied 6.8-tonne PG-99 35mm towed anti-aircraft guns and Sichuan Military Electronics Industries Group Company (SEMIC)’s Type 825 fire-control radars.
The PG-99, a re-engineered Oerlikon-Contraves GDF-002 of early 1980ss vintage, is gas-operated and comes with a rate of fire of up to 1,100 rounds/minute, and the muzzle velocity is up to 1,175 metres/second, together with high aiming speed, low recoil force and small dispersion. Its engagement range is 4km. The PG-99 is mounted on a cradle which is designed to carry guns and the mobile platform. It contains the hydro-mechanical recoil mechanism, which absorbs the recoil forces. The lower part of the cradle comprises the two-axle chassis and the outriggers with the leveling spindles for four-point support in the firing positions. Raising and lowering the levelling spindles and raising the wheels are done electro-hydraulically, or manually in the case of power failure.
The gun can be traversed 360 degree and its elevation/depression angles are +92 degree/-5 degree. The Type 825 fire-control system can acquire targets at a range of up to 40km, track them at a maximum distance of 32km, and identify them at ranges of up to 6km.
Offensive Firepower Deliverance By PAF & PA
For its F-16 fleet, the PAF is authorised by the US to make use of only US-designed bombs and precision-guided munitions (PGM), like the GBU-12 LGB, Mk.82 high-.low-drag 500lb bombs, Mk.84 2,000lb bomb and PSD-1 cluster bomb. In addition, since 2006 the PAF has obtained 1,600 Enhanced Paveway GBU-12 (500lb) and GBU-24 bombs (2,000lb) with dual laser/GPS guidance, 800 Mk.82 500lb and Mk-84 2,000lb general-purpose bombs, 500 GBU-31/38 JDAM guidance kits and 700 BLU-109 2,000lb bunker-buster bombs, plus 500 AIM-120C5 AMRAAM and 500 AIM-9M-8/9 Sidewinder air combat missiles.
However, when it comes to its Mirage-III/V and JF-17 fleets, the PAF has armed them with both US-origin bombs as well as China-supplied ordnance that includes the FT-6A ‘Takbir’ gliding PGM with a range-extension kit (REK), CS/BBS1 cluster bomb, 200kg low-drag runway-cratering bomb called ‘Hafr-2’ (NORINCO-built clone of the Matra Durandal), 250kg low-drag low-altitude fragmentation bomb, CS/BBF1 250kg cluster bomb, 500kg low-drag low-altitude fragmentation bomb, CS/BBR1 500kg aerial incendiary bomb, GB1 500kg LGB, Hijara cluster bomb (clone of the PSD-1), MAR-1 anti-radiation missile (100 of these, each with 25km-range were procured from Brazil), Hatf-8/Ra’ad 550km-range air-launched cruise missile and the Raptor TV-guided gliding PGM and its data-link pod (supplied by DENEL of South Africa), plus PL-5EII air combat missiles (for the Mirage-III/V and F-7P/PG fleets) and the PL-5EII and SD-10A air combat missiles for the JF-17s.
For target designation and weapons delivery, the F-16s make use of 37 Lockheed Martin-supplied AAQ-33 SNIPER ATP pods, while the JF-17s use the WMD-7 pods supplied by China’s CETC Int’l. For self-protection, the F-16s make use of 18 ITT Exelis-supplied ALQ-211(V)9 advanced integrated defensive EW pods (AIDEWS) without digital radio- frequency memory (DRFM) and 21 Northrop Grumman ALQ-131 Block-2 jammer pods without DRFM. The JF-17s are equipped with CETC-supplied KG-300G jammer pods.
For conducting tactical airborne reconnaissance, the PAF relies on seven DB-110 dual-band (visual/infra-red) LOng Range Oblique Photography (LOROP) pods that can be carried only by the F-16s. The first two were delivered in 2009 by Goodrich Corp, with another five worth $72 million following in 2012. They were delivered with two fixed ground stations and one mobile ground station, each equipped with one data-link receiving system (a total of four ground receiving data-links were delivered).
It was between mid-2008 and late December 2015 that the PAF’s F-16s were extensively used over the country’s troubled tribal regions in the remote Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) during low-intensity conflict (LIC) operations. The PAF flew more than 7,000 day/night strike-sorties in this period, with 5,500 strike-sorties alone being flown between May 2008 and late 2011 in support of the PA’s OP Sherdil in August 2008, OP Sirat-e-Mustaqeem in June 2008, OP Rah-e-Rast in May 2009, OP Brekhna, OP Eagle Swoop, OP Mountain Scanner and OP Mountain Sweep between June and September 2009, OP Rah-e-Nijaat in October 2009, OP Khwakh Ba De Sham in March 2010, and OP Koh-e-Sufaid in July 2011. When the PA turned its attention to South Waziristan in October 2009, the PAF conducted a seven-day air-strike campaign in advance. All three of its F-16 squadrons were put through a training programme over a four-month period. The US-supplied LGBs have been used in 80% of the PAF air-strikes. More than 12,600 bombs have been dropped to date, and 5,400 targets were destroyed. In support, the PAF also registered more than 700 F-16 recce sorties with the DB-110 pods.
However, operating extensively in support of ground-based LIC operations and in uncontested airspace is unlikely to be of much use when it comes to the issue of mounting deep-interdiction strike-sorties inside hostile airspace. Consequently, the PAF’s combat aircraft fleet will, at most, will be able to fly only air-defence and battlefield air-interdiction sorties during the next round of hostilities with India. In addition, the PAF has not yet been able to procure rangeless ACMI systems for increasing the proficiency of its combat pilots, despite continuing to make tall claims about having developed an indigenous rangeless ACMI system that never shows up during any of the regular air-exercises the PAF conducts!
Matters for the PAF will not improve until it takes delivery of up to 80 twin-engined FC-31 stealthy M-MRCAs. Now being developed by China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corp (SAC), the FC-31 has been designed to carry an eight-tonne weapons payload (including four precision-guided munitions totalling two tonnes internally and six tonnes being carried on six external hardpoints). It has a combat radius of 648 nautical miles (1,200km) and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 28 tonnes. The fuselage length is 17.5 metres, while the wingspan is 11.5 metres, and the height is 4.8 metres. The estimated maximum attainable speed is Mach 1.8, and the powerplant will comprise two 94kN thrust-rated Klimov RD-93MA turbofans imported off-the-shelf from Russia’s Moscow-based Chernyshev Machine-Building Plant, a division of the United Engines Corp (UEC). The RD-93MAs will incorporate full authority digital engine controls (FADEC) and a gearbox located at the bottom front-end of the engine casing. The RD-93MA will have a total technical a service-life of 4,000 hours.
It is for this reason that the PA has, since the early 1990s, acquired several types of conventional warhead-carrying ballistic and cruise missiles for use as deep fire-assault weapons capable of reaching the major cities of western, northern central India. And China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp (CASIC) has been Pakistan’s foremost supplier of such missiles, that currently arm the PA’s 21 Artillery Division HQed at Pano Aqil in Sindh province (equipped with two Babur LACM Battalions—the 23rd and 26th Missile Group that are stored at a purpose-built facility just outside the PAF’s Masroor air base--at a rate of one Battery every year starting 2009), with each having four Batteries each with six TELs housing 24 LACMs and 72 reloads and 12 other supporting vehicles, all manned by 175 personnel); and the Sargodha-based 22 Artillery Division.
Pakistan’s quest for acquiring conventional warhead-carrying missiles began in September 1988, when Islamabad inked a contract with Beijing for procuring some 80 solid-fuelled single-stage M-11 (Hatf-3/Ghaznavi/CSS-7 Mod 1/DF-11) 280km-range TBMs carried and launched from MAZ-543 8 x 8 vehicles, and 34 600km-range M-9 (Hatf-4/Shaheen-1/CSS-6/DF-15) TBMs. These missiles were developed by CPMIEC and China Metallurgical Equipment Corp (MECC), assembled by the Sanjiang Aerospace Group in Yuanan, 210km west of Beijing in Hubei province, and the entire contract was serviced by CASIC under the supervision of China’s state-owned Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND). By December 1988, China commenced deliveries of M-9 and M-11 TBMs, with all remaining deliveries being concluded by mid-1992.
By early 1990, Pakistan had inked a $516 million turn-key deal with CASIC to establish localised industrial facilities for licence-building a total of 64 solid-fuelled missiles such as: the Hatf-3/Ghaznavi/M-11/CSS-7 Mod 1/DF-11 (with a CEP of 250 metres and carrying a 500kg conventional warhead), Hatf-4/Shaheen-1/M-9/CSS-6/DF-15 (with a CEP of 50 metres when carrying a 1-tonne conventional warhead), and another 64 Hatf-2/Abdali/P-12 precision-guided tactical missiles each with a 180km-range, CEP of 15 metres and carrying a 500kg conventional warhead. While China agreed to supply the jigs, lathes and moulding/machining/milling tooling required for fabricating the missile sub-assemblies, it insisted that Pakistan independently source raw materials like Grade 18Ni (250) maraging steel, nono steel, powder materials for flame- and plasma-sprayed coatings, corrosion-resistant neodymium iron boron magnets, ablative liners, beryllium-aluminum alloys that can be cast into complex shapes that need little or no machining; plus propellant-related materials like aluminum oxide powder, acrylic acid, ammonium perchlorate, polybutadiene, monomethyl hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.
On August 22, 1994 Pakistan paid CASIC $15 million for a contract under which the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) 2nd Artillery Corps was to train Pakistan Army personnel to deploy and launch the Abdali, Shaheen-1 and Ghaznavi TBMs. A month later, a PLA team of instructors arrived at Sargodha. Concurrently, work began on building the instrumented 200-hectare Flight Test Range at Sonmiani, 75km north of Karachi; Sandhak, 50km east of the Iranian border in Baluchistan province; and at the Ratla Range off the Siwalik Hills west of Dera Ghazi Khan. In July 1998, the PA conducted its first launch drills involving a Missile Group of Shaheen-1 TBMs at the Deosai Plains in PoK.
Between January and March 1989, the then Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto had decreed that an IRBM be developed by the Kahuta-based Dr A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) with North Korean assistance be called Al Zulfikar. The liquid-fuelled single-stage Hatf-5/Ghauri-1/Nodong-1 IRBMs of North Korean origin was inducted into service on January 8, 2003 under the 47th Missile Group of the PA’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC). The Ghauri-1’s pre-surveyed launch pads and related underground command-and-control bunkers are located at the Kirana Hills in Punjab province. In June 1992, KRL and PA officials visited North Korea’s Sanum-dong guided-missile development centre to examine the Nodong-1. Between August 4 and 7 the same year, North Korea’s then Deputy Premier-Foreign Minister Kim Yong-nam travelled to Pakistan to discuss the licenced-assembly of Nodong-1s armed with conventional warheads. On May 29 and 30, 1993 Pakistani and Iranian officials were present for Pyongyang’s test-firing of one Nodong-1. On December 30 the same year, PM Bhutto travelled to Pyongyang and struck a deal to purchase technical design data of the Nodong-1 and use it to indigenously develop the Al Zulfikar. In September 1994, a delegation led by Choe Hui-chong, the then Chairman of North Korea’s State Commission of Science & Technology travelled to Pakistan and visited KRL. During this visit, Choe inked a $220 million deal to provide Pakistan with fuel tanks and liquid-fuelled rocket engines for the Al Zulfikar IRBM, which by then had been renamed as the Hatf-5/Ghauri-1, along with 12 fully-assembled Nodong-1s and related launch-control systems valued at $60 million, plus their fixed-base launch facilities in the Kirana Hills off the PAF’s sprawling air base at Sargodha. These items were produced by Pyongyang’s 4th Machine Industry Bureau of the 2nd Economic Committee. By April 1996, Changgwang Sinyong Corp (aka North Korea Mining Development Trading Corp) began delivering 12 Ghauri-1s in fully knocked-down condition, plus equipment for assembling them at a new customised facility built by KRL at Kahuta. The Ghauri-1’s land-mobile MAZ-543TLM wheeled transporter-erector-launchers were supplied off-the-shelf by the Sungni General Automotive Factory of the 2nd Machine Industry Bureau. At the same time, work began on the construction of related missile test-firing infrastructure near Nowshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at Dera Ghazi Khan (in the Dallana tribal area near the Suleiman Range), and the Mashhood Test Firing Range at Tilla Jogian in Punjab’s Jhelum district, with a monitoring station located at Basti Jarh, some 6km from Dera Ghazi Khan along the Dera-Quetta road. In December 1997, Pakistan’s then COAS Gen Jehangir Karamat, accompanied by the then Director of KRL Dr Abdul Qadeer ‘Bhopali’ Khan, visited North Korea’s 125 Factory where the Ghauri-1/Nodong-1s were being built. Following this, North Korean IL-76MD transports began making about three flights a month to Chaklala until January 1998, when the number of flights increased three-fold. These flights ferried in technical experts and telemetry crews to KRL between February and March 1998. In September 1998, construction began with North Korea’s civil engineering assistance of six above-ground fixed-base Ghauri-1 storage/assembly/launch sites, along with related hardened underground command-and-control centres in the Kirana Hills.
By May 2002, operational Ghaznavis with conventional warheads were deployed along the Deosai Plateau, Gujranwala and Mangla, while the Shaheen-1s were deployed to pre-surveyed launch pads in the Deosai Plateau. The Ghaznavi TBMs were formally inducted into service on February 22, 2004. Present plans call for the PA to deploy three Missile Groups each of the Abdali, Ghaznavi, Ghauri-1 and Shaheen-1 (grouped under two separate Artillery Brigades (these being the Masroor-based Missile Brigade South comprising Missile Groups 25, 35 and 40 and the Sargodha-based Missile Brigade North comprising the 14, 28 and 47 Missile Groups) during hostilities, with all such missiles being armed with conventional HE or FAE-based warheads. Each such Group comprises 18 TELs each with one ready-to-fire missile and 54 missile reloads. A Group can also be divided into three Batteries (with six TELs and six missiles plus 24 reloads). Presently, Missile Groups of the Abdali, Ghaznavi and Shaheen-1 are located at Sargodha and Manglam while the 180km-range Hatf-9/Nasr MBRLs are stored at the PA’s Pasrur cantonment.
And yet, the PAF suffers from several shortcomings that rend to ensure that in a future round of all-out hostilities against the IAF, the PAF will succumb within a period of eight days. These include:
1) The unavailability of the required quantum of spares-support from the OEMs of the Dassault Mirage-III/V and Chengdu F-7P/PG fleets of combat aircraft, since these are no longer in series-production and they have also been phased out of service in both France and China. Consequently, fast-moving rotables and consumables are quite hard to come by on short-notice, due to which the PAF has no choice but to conserve the flightworthy lives of such aircraft by reducing their peacetime training flight sorties and this in turn reduces aircrew proficiency. Thus, the PAF can today mobilise no more than 17 full-strength flightworthy combat aircraft squadrons at short notice.
2) Series-production of the JF-17A Thunder L-MRCA by China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corp (CAC) continues at an excruciatingly slow rate due to greater priority accorded by CAC to the series-production of the J-10B M-MRCAs for both the PLA Air Force and the PLA Naval Aviation.
3) The refusal by the US to supply air-to-ground all-weather precision-guided munitions (PGM) like AGM-65 Maverick or Brimstone or sensor-fuzed cluster munitions or AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARM) for the PAF’s F-16s—all of which can be used with devastating effect during battlefield air-interdiction missions.
4) The US refusal to supply Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder within-visual-range air-to-air missiles for the PAF’s P-16s, which renders the Boeing-supplied Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System totally worthless.
5) China’s surprising unwillingness to supply the PAF with the more advanced PL-8 or PL-9C within-visual-range air-to-air missiles for the PAF’s JF-17As.
6) The PAF’s unsuccessful efforts to service-induct MR-SAMs like the LY-80E and its reluctant approval for the PA’s desire to operate such MR-SAM Regiments.
7) The PAF’s unsuccessful efforts to date to procure twin-engined M-MRCAs required for mounting low-level deep-interdiction sorties.
8) The PAF being forced to deploy its AEW & CS platforms as far west as possible (especially in Balochistan) in order to acquire some depth, due to Pakistan’s peculiar elongated geography. This prevents the PAF from conducting offensive airborne battle management taskings deep within Indian airspace, thereby forcing its AEW & CS platforms to perform only air-defence-related airborne battle management taskings.
9) Lastly, and most importantly, Pakistan’s steadily sliding economic condition and its growing expenses on securing the Durand Line along its western frontier, both of which have forced Pakistan’s armed forces to reduce their war wastage reserve (WWR) stockpiles that will not last beyond EIGHT days of intense, multi-front warfighting in an all-out war scenario.
And it is with all of the above that the PAF will have to confront an IAF that, by 2020, will comprise 32 combat aircraft squadrons and 39 Helicopter Units. Presently, the IAF can boast of three Sqns with MiG-29s now being upgraded to UPG standard, nine squadrons with MiG-21 Bison (reduced to seven by 2020), two squadrons with MiG-21Ms (to be decommissioned later this year), four squadrons with Jaguar IS of which 64 are being upgraded to DARIN-3 standard, one squadron with Jaguar IM for maritime strike, 15 squadrons with Su-30MKI H-MRCAs, three squadrons with Mirage 2000H/TH that are now being upgraded, two squadrons with MiG-27UPG, one squadron with MiG-27Ms, and half-a-squadron with Tejas Mk.1 L-MRCAs. By 2024, all the MiG-21 Bisons, MiG-27UPGs and MiG-27Ms will be decommissioned, while one additional Tejas Mk.1 and two Dassault Rafale M-MRCA squadrons will be raised, thus leaving the IAF with 30 combat aircraft squadrons against a 20-squadron combat aircraft fleet strength of the PAF.
The IAF’s force-mix is quite lop-sided today and will remain so till the end of this decade, since close to 40% of IAF’s authorised combat force will be comprised of Su-30MKI H-MRCAs, 20% of upgraded M-MRCAs like the Mirage 2000Is and MiG-29UPG, and the rest with platforms like the Jaguar IS, MiG-27UPGs, MiG-27Ms and MiG-21 Bisons. The shortfalls are particularly critical in the tactical interdiction and battlefield air-interdiction arenas.
The shortfalls could well have been non-existent had the IAF in 2005 decided to undertake a deep upgrade for its 125 licence-built MiG-27Ms (equipping five squadrons) and 95 imported MiG-23BNs (equipping three squadrons) by re-engining each of them with AL-31F turbofans and equipping them with DARIN 3-type mission avionics, which would have extended their service lives by 20 years.
In terms of force-multiplier combat-supp[ort systems, the IAF presently possesses only three A-50I PHALCON and two EMB-145I ‘Netra’ AEW & CS platforms, plus six IL-78MKI aerial refuellers. For standoff recce, two ELBIT Systems-built CONDOR-2 LOROP pods were procured in Februaty 2009 for the Jaguar IS, followed by another two worth $82 million in April 2017 for the Rafales. Each CONDOR-2 system includes the pod itself, a wide-band data-link, and fixed and transportable image exploitation stations and their support equipment. Also acquired in 2007 were four ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2060P SAR pods for the Su-30MKI, and two RecceLite pods for the Tejas Mk.1.
As for target designation pods, the MoD concluded a contract in November 1996 for procurinmg an initial 15 RAFAEL-supplied Litening-2s at a cost of Rs.95 crore ($27.11 million( for fitment on 30 Jaguar IS and five Mirage-2000H/TH aircraft at a total cost of Rs.125 crore. Of these, 10 pods were later transferred for use by the Su-30MKIs. In 2015 another 164 Litening-G4I pods were ordered for use by Rafale (14 for the 36 Rafales), Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000N and Jaguar IS/DARIN-3 aircraft. and Tejas Mk.1/Mk.1A.
As for EW pods, the MoD ordered 10 THALES-supplied Barem pods for the Mirage-2000H/TH fleet in 1988. In February 1996, the MoD contracted ELTA Systems for the procurement of 92 EL/L-8222 pods (82 for the IAF and 10 for the Indian Navy), at a total cost of $84.84 million, or Rs.280 crore. Of the 82 systems, 50 were contracted for the MiG-21 Bison and 32 for Jaguar IS (as internally-mounted suites). Another 90 pods were ordered in 2009 for the Su-30MKI fleet.
The IAF’s 36 Rafales, built to F3-04T-standard, will each incorporate two RAFAEL-built X-Guard fibre-optic towed-decoys that can be released when the aircraft approaches an area saturated with ground-based air-defence weapons, or when threats from inbound SAMs or AAMs are detected by the Spectra EW suite. In the latter case, the most suitable countermeasure will be transmitted to the X-Guard by the Spectra. The X-Guard will then lure the attacking missiles away by creating an attractive false target signal that will divert the homing missile from the Rafale. The X-Guard is designed to defeat advanced tracking techniques, including modern ‘Monopulse and Look on Receive-Only’ (LORO) techniques. The decoy is retrievable and can be deployed several times during a mission.
Coming to PGMs, the IAF has to date received 200 of the 17km-range, 520kg KAB-500Kr TV-guided rockets, 2,500 Griffin-3 LGBs, 1,500 KAB-1500LG-FE LGBs, 300 of the 690kg 30km-range Kh-29TE TV-guided missiles, 100 of the 1,130kg, 150km-range PopeyeLite missiles with imaging infra-red seeker fire-and-update mode plus 20 Pegasus data-link pods, 250 of the 550kg, 65km-range Spice-1000 (Smart Precise Impact and Cost Effective guidance kit) missiles, 200 of the 600kg, 110km-range Kh-31P Krypton ARMs, and 200 of the 40km-range, 315lg Kh-25MP ARMs.
Slated for delivery in future are 400 of the 100km-range SAAW gliding directed-energy weapons mounted in quad-racks; 50 BrahMos-A supersonic multi-role air-launched cruise missiles; 150 of the 1,300kg, 550km-range SCALP-EG subsonic LACMs and 100 of the 268kg, 93km-range ALARM ARMs (the last two for the Rafales); and more than 6,000 locally-developed 500kg Precision Guided High-Speed Low-Drag (PGHSLD) bombs (whose flight-qualifications began on May 22, 2017). Two PGHSLDs, one with sensors, telemetry, data logger for carriage trials and anoother with GPS and telemetry were carried out by the IAF’s 32 Wing AF Station in Jodhpur. Using guiding fins and a GPS-aided and FOG-based inertial navigation system, a PGHSLD can land within 13 metres (42 feet) of its target. In future the PGHSLD will be equipped with wings that unfold in flight to triple the range from 15 miles (24km) to over 45 miles (72km). The modular nature of such a smart kit means that it can be easily upgraded as technology improves and options such as improved laser sensors, GPS jamming immunity and an all-weather radar sensors can be added.
The air-launched BrahMos-A and its successor, the BrahMos-NG (now under development and slated for service-entry by 2023), when used in conjunction with the SIVA HADF pod, are the principal weapons to be employed against hostile AEW & CS platforms. Equipped with an imaging X-band SAR seeker, such missiles when launched from two different directions at any airborne AEW & CS platform, can cruise at altitudes higher than those of such platforms and can zero in on their targets through a lofted trajectory in the terminal flight phase, almost in a top-attack mode.
By early 2021, the IAF will begin receiving the first of more than 4,000 Nirbhay ground-launched LACMs. They will be joining the IA’s existing one Regiment of BrahMos-1 Block 1 and two Regiments of BrahMos Block 2 supersonic LACMs, plus a single Squadron of BrahMos-1 Block 3 top-attack LACMs of the IAF. Each BrahMos-1 Battery includes five mobile autonomous launchers (MAL) each with three vertical-launch cannisters, and four Batteries make up a Regiment, accounting for about 70 missiles.
The IA’s 861 Regiment (with BrahMos-1 Block I was raised on June 21, 2007 at a cost of $83 million, while the 862 Regiment (BrahMos-1 Block 2) was raised in March 2012, and these were followed by the 863 Regiment (BrahMos-1 Block 2) and 864 Regiment (BrahMos-1 Block 2) at a cost of Rs. 4,300 crore ($644 million). All these Regiments are an integral part of the IA’s 40th and 41st Artillery Divisions.
The procurement of more than 200 ground-launched BrahMos-1 Block-3 LACMs for the IAF was cleared by India’s Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCS) on October 19, 2012 at the cost of $919 million. On December 9, 2014 the IAF service-inducted the BrahMos-1 Technical Position00a centre that will house the missiles and launchers for the IAF. While the IA’s BrahMos-1s are to be used against static/fixed installations like transportation nodes and battlefield POL and weapons storage dumps (with target selection being done by the Surveillance and Target Acquisition Fire-Control Centres (SATA-FCC) by the Artillery Division HQs, the IAF’s BrahMos-1 Block 3s and Nirbhays will be employed for the destruction of air bases and storage areas/launch-pads of ballistic/cruise missiles deep inside enemy territory, such as the PA’s 1st Strategic Missile Group at Mangla, 2nd Strategic Missile Group at Sargodha, and the 3rd Strategic Missile Group at Khuzdaar.
In fact, this is exactly what former Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon had alluded to in his book, titled Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, where he had opined that “Circumstances are conceivable in which India might find it useful to strike first, for instance, against a nuclear weapon state that had declared that it would certainly use its weapons, and if India was certain that an adversary’s nuclear weapons launch was imminent.”
What this means in reality is that if the enemy’s declared intent is of using the nuclear weapons option not at the last moment or as a last resort, but when the IA’s integrated battle groups (IBG) begin entering Pakistani territory, then to India this means that her military forces will have to strike, with superior conventional force, at Pakistan’s nuclear warhead-armed ballistic/cruise missile storage/launch bases first, and destroy them, simultaneously or even before the IA’s armour-heavy Strike Corps can reach their wartime staging areas. But unfortunately, Menon’s opinions were totally misinterpreted by the likes of a certain Dr Vipin Narang of the US-based MIT, who have wrongly and perhaps mischievously claimed that Menon’s opinions are proof of India’s abandonment of the ‘No First Use’ policy with regard to strategic nuclear deterrence.
(To be concluded)