Pakistan; Future Defence Industry
By Raiq Qureshi
Turkey has formally conveyed his decision of buying 52 Super Mushshak Aircrafts from Pakistan. While in the future we can expect that Azerbaijan will also buy couple of JF-17 thunder aircrafts. The Mushshak has been produced under the license at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra with many countries in Africa and Middle East acquiring the Pakistan version.
Likely to be unveiled in early 2017, the JF-17 Thunder’s Block-III will come with a twin-seat trainer version along with advanced Active Electronically-Scanned Array radar and mid-air refueling tube. Speculations are that the aircraft uses greater amount of composite materials to increase its performance, besides addition of other updates in cockpit and weapons’ pods. There are no confirmations about such upgrades, however, Pakistan Air Force has not only been working to upgrade the jet for its own needs but also to make it more attractive for exports to friendly countries with limited budget or lack of access to western technology. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been following the development and evolution of JF-17 thunder with keen interest.
Turkey equally is willing to buy 52 Super Mushshak aircrafts from Pakistan. Talking about all these things bring me to my topic’s main theme. The country that had no defence industry at the time of independence is now moving so fast and progressing by leaps and bounds that now it is even able to export its defensive machineries. At the time of independence, Pakistan had no arms industry and then in 1951 the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawab Liaquat Ali Khan laid the foundation of the first defence factory in Wahh Cantt Punjab Pakistan. At that time manufacturing of the arms and guns at home was much needed as the tensions between Pakistan and India on Kashmir issue were high. Later, relationship between Pakistan and United States helped Pakistan to improve its defensive efficiency and also helped in improving its war technology.
In 1972, the Defence Production Division under the Ministry of Defence worked hard to survive in the climate of Western sanctions and weak economic indicators while the 80s again slowed down indigenous arms development initiative except the advances made in development of nuclear deterrence in Kahuta.
Pakistan Navy considering buying warships from China. In the 1990s Pakistan started considering developing its very own fighter jet, then named Super 7, with the assistance of China. But owing to financial limitations the plan was shelved. However, in the wake of 9/11, developments were catalytic for Pakistan to vigorously pursue path to self-reliance, particularly in the realm of air force.
The 9th seminar of “Weapons for Peace” IDEAS has brought many hopes and innovations with some bigger promises. The international community realized our abilities and technical performances. Impressively, the number of Pakistani companies excelling in defence equipment or its line industries has been on the rise since the regular event kicked off in 2000. Delegations and companies of 40 countries participated in the event at a time when India’s far rightwing government pledged to isolate Pakistan.
Now the most important thing on which we should focus is the modern technology and its use. So far Pakistan has been working and improving its position slowly and steadily but still we are lagging behind in the technical field from rest of the world.
Pakistan’s reliance on assembling imported parts and reverse engineering has slowly come to define national arms production. It is true that no country can single-handedly master state-of-the-art technologies and thus it needs some help from other states. Take for example Soviet Union which learned this art after WWII by learning from the Western industry. China also has long relied on Russia for cutting edge technology too. So, the way forward for Pakistan is also to collaborate with other friendly nations such as China, Turkey and Ukraine. Countries such as Belarus, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia and Argentina can also be mutually engaged for sharing know-how based on respective nation’s field of expertise.
What future holds? The JF-17’s Block III is expected to open new avenues for Pakistani defence exports. The recent agreement with a Ukrainian company for upgrading Pakistan’s Al-Khalid tanks is a welcoming step in the right direction. Additionally, Pakistan must consider teaming up with Turkey regarding production of gunship helicopters as Ankara reaches out to Islamabad for its indigenous fifth generation fighter jet.
The country’s defence production for local use has reached $1.5 billion per annum, according to a report published in the journal Jane’s Defence Weekly, which quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying: “We have substituted imported defence equipment worth $1.5bn, which for us is a huge bonus”.
Now Pakistan needs to offer more incentive for the private sector to chip in to accelerate development in the realm of military hardware.