Military Wiki
Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Air Force emblem.svg
Pakistan Air Force emblem
Founded 14 August 1947
Country Pakistan Pakistan
Role Air force
Size 65,000 full-time personnel
(including 3,000 pilots)
10,000 reservists
973 aircraft
Part of Pakistan Armed Forces
Air Headquarters AHQ, Islamabad
Nickname(s) PAF
Motto(s) A symbol of pride for the nation
Anniversaries Air Force Day: September 7
Engagements Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, 1965 Rann of Kutch Skirmishes, Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Six-Day War, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Yom Kippur War, Soviet war in Afghanistan, 1999 Kargil Conflict, 2001–02 India–Pakistan standoff, War in North-West Pakistan
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman
Ceremonial chief Air Chf Mrshl Anwar Shamim
Air Mrshl Nur Khan
Roundel Roundel of the Pakistani Air Force.svg
Fin flash Flag of Pakistan.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Mirage 5[1]
Falcon DA-20, Saab 2000 Erieye, ZDK-03 (AEW)
Fighter F-16A/B/C/D, JF-17
Helicopter Alouette III, Mi-171
Reconnaissance Mirage IIIRP, Falco UAV, Jasoos II Bravo+
Trainer FT-5, K-8P, MFI-17, MFI-395, C-12, T-37
Transport Boeing 707, Airbus A310, C-130B/E/L, CN-235, Saab 2000 Harbin Y-12
Tanker Ilyushin Il-78

The Pakistan Air Force (Urdu language: پاک فِضائیہ‎ —Pāk Fizāʾiyah, Urdu: [pɑːk fɪzɑːɪjəɦ]), abbreviated as PAF, is the air warfare branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces, primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Islamic Republic of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air logistics support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport and logistics capability to Pakistan. The PAF employs approximately 65,000 full-time personnel (including approximately 3,000 pilots) and, currently, operates 400 combat aircraft as well as various transport and training aircraft.[2]


In 1933, British colonial government of India established the subcontinent’s first Air Force station near Drigh Road, now called PAF Base Faisal. In 1934, this element of the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) was extended to the North for operations in the North West Frontier Province. Later the RIAF contributed to the defeat of the Japanese invasion during World War II.

1947–1951: The formative years

PAF Hawker Sea Fury two-seat trainer

The Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF) was established on 15 August 1947 with the independence of Pakistan from British India. The RPAF began with 2,332 personnel, a fleet of 24 Tempest II fighter-bombers, 16 Hawker Typhoon fighters, 2 H.P.57 Halifax bombers, 2 Auster aircraft, 12 North American Harvard trainers and 10 de Havilland Tiger Moth biplanes. It also received 8 C-47 Dakota cargo planes which it used to transport supplies to soldiers fighting in the 1947 War in Kashmir against India. However, the RPAF did not receive all of the aircraft that it was originally allotted at the time of independence of South Asia.[3] It started with 7 operational airbases scattered all over the provinces. The prefix Royal was removed when Pakistan became a republic on 23 March 1956. It has since been called the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

Operating these inherited aircraft was far from ideal in Pakistan's diverse terrains, deserts, and mountains, with frequent attrition and injuries resulting. However, by 1948 the air force acquired better aircraft such as the Hawker Sea Fury fighter-bomber and the Bristol Freighter. These new aircraft gave a much-needed boost to the morale and combat capability of the Pakistan Air Force; 93 Hawker Fury and roughly 50-70 Bristol Freighter aircraft were inducted into the PAF by 1950.

1951–1961: PAF enters the jet age

Flying Officer Waleed Ehsanul Karim poses in front of his F-86.

Although the Pakistan Air Force had limited funds to utilize and few markets to choose from, it entered the jet age relatively early. Initially it planned to acquire U.S. built F-94Cs, F-86s, or F-84s and produce its order in Pakistan. However, lack of funds and strong British pressure persuaded the PAF to acquire the British Supermarine Attacker. The Supermarine Attacker had a rather unsatisfactory service in the Pakistan Air Force with frequent attrition and maintenance problems. In 1957 the Pakistan Air Force received 100 American-built F-86 Sabres under the U.S. aid program. Many squadrons in the PAF retired its Hawker Furys and Supermarine Attackers, and replaced them with F-86 jet fighters. In 1957 thirty-six-year-old Air Marshal Asghar Khan became the Pakistan Air Force's first commander-in-chief.

1959: PAF draws "first blood"

On 10 April 1959, on the occasion of the Islamic Eid ul-Fitr festival holiday in Pakistan, an Indian Air Force (IAF) English Electric Canberra B(I)58 entered Pakistani airspace on a photo reconnaissance mission. Two PAF F-86F Sabres from No. 15 Squadron on Air Defence Alert (ADA) were scrambled from Sargodha Air Base to intercept the IAF aircraft. The Sabre pilots were Flt. Lt. M. N. Butt (leader) and Flt. Lt. M. Yunis (wingman)(Later Air Vice Marshal) whereas Pilot Officer Rab Nawaz was the on-duty Air Defence Controller for this mission. Nawaz successfully vectored both Sabres to the location of the high-flying Canberra. Butt attempted to bring down the Canberra by firing his Sabre's machine guns, but the Canberra was flying at an altitude of more than 50,000 feet - beyond the operational ceiling of the F-86F. When Yunis took over from his leader, the Canberra suddenly lost height while executing a turn over Rawalpindi. Yunis grabbed this opportunity and fired a burst from his 12.7 mm guns that struck the Canberra at an altitude of 47,500 feet and brought it down over Rawat, near Rawalpindi. Marking the first aerial victory of the PAF . '55-5005' was the serial number of the F-86F Sabre that was flown by Flt. Lt. Yunis that day. Both the occupants of the IAF Canberra, namely Sqn. Ldr. J.C. Sen Gupta (pilot) and Flt. Lt. S.N. Rampal (navigator) from the IAF's No. 106 Sqn., ejected and were captured by Pakistani authorities and were subsequently released after remaining in detention for some time.[4]

1965 India-Pakistan Rann of Kutch border skirmish

In June 1965, prior to the outbreak of the 1965 India-Pakistan War, India and Pakistan had a border skirmish in the Rann of Kutch region near the south-eastern coastline of Pakistan. The PAF was tasked with providing point-defence to the Rann of Kutch region to prevent the Indian Air Force (IAF) from entering Pakistani airspace and attacking Pakistan Army positions. On 24 June 1965, an IAF Ouragan fighter (Serial No. IC 698), flown by Flt. Lt. Rana Lal Chand Sikka of No. 51 Auxiliary Squadron from the IAF's Jamnagar Air Station entered Pakistani airspace. A PAF F-104A Starfighter from No. 9 Squadron intercepted the IAF fighter near Badin in Sindh, Pakistan. Just as the PAF pilot locked on to the Indian fighter and was about to release his AIM-9B Sidewinder Air-to-Air Missile (AAM), the Indian pilot lowered his aircraft's landing gear (an internationally recognized sign of aerial surrender). The IAF pilot landed at an open field near Jangshahi village near Badin. The IAF pilot was taken prisoner and released on 14 August 1965 - as a goodwill gesture on the 18th Anniversary of Pakistan's Independence Day. The IAF Ouragan fighter was retained by the PAF as a trophy and flown by a PAF pilot to an airbase in Karachi. (NOTE: This event is not to be confused with the surrender of an IAF Gnat on 4 September 1965 during the 1965 India-Pakistan War, which is on display at the PAF Museum Karachi).[5]

1965 India-Pakistan War

PAF B-57 Canberra bombers lined up at an airbase.

The PAF fleet at the time consisted of 12 F-104 Starfighters, some 120 F-86 Sabres and around 20 B-57 Canberra bombers.[6] The PAF claims to have had complete air superiority over the battle area from the second day of operations.[7] Many publications have credited the PAF's successes to U.S. equipment, claiming it to be superior to the aircraft operated by the IAF and giving the PAF a "qualitative advantage". However some people refute this argument. As per them, the IAF's MiG-21, Hawker Hunter and Folland Gnat aircraft had better performance than the PAF's F-86 fighters.[8] According to Air Cdre (retired) Sajad Haider, the F-86 Sabre was inferior in both power and speed to the IAF's Hawker Hunter.[8][9]

According to Air Commodore (retired) Sajjad Haider who flew with No. 19 squadron, the F-104 Starfighter did not deserve its reputation as "the pride of the PAF" because it "was unsuited to the tactical environment of the region. It was a high-level interceptor designed to neutralize Soviet strategic bombers in altitudes above 40,000 feet." Nevertheless the IAF is believed to have feared the Starfighter[10] although, according to some, it was not as effective as the IAF's Folland Gnat.[11] According to Indian sources, the F-86F performed reasonably well against the IAF Hawker Hunters but not as well against the Folland Gnat, which was nicknamed Sabre Slayer by the IAF.[12][13]

According to Indian sources most aircraft losses of IAF were on ground while PAF lost most in aerial combat.[14] Even though the IAF flew a larger offensive air campaign by devoting 40% of its air effort to offensive air support alone, according to Indian sources the majority of its losses came from aircraft destroyed on the ground through PAF air strikes.[14] The PAF without doubt, had achieved far more in terms of enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground but the IAF had achieved much more in the close support role.[14]

During the last days of the war Pakistani aircraft flew over Indian cities and airbases without any response from the opposing side. At the end of the war, India had lost 110 aircraft with 19 damaged, not including those destroyed on the ground at night, against a loss of 16 PAF planes.[15]

1967 The Six-Day War

During this conflict the PAF sent personnel to Egypt, Jordan and Syria to support the Arabs in their battle against the Israelis. Some Pakistani sources have claimed that PAF pilots managed to shoot down ten Israeli aircraft.[citation needed][16]

1971 India-Pakistan War

In December 1971, India and Pakistan went to war over East Pakistan. At the start of the war, the PAF inventory contained around 270 combat aircraft while the IAF had over 1,200 - outnumbering the PAF 4:1 in West Pakistan and 10:1 in East Pakistan.[17]

One of the major operations of the war by PAF was Operation Chengiz Khan which inflicted damages to IAF with all PAF fighters landing home unscratched.[18][19]

At the end of the war, the Indian Air Force claimed that it had shot down 94 PAF aircraft (including 54 F-86 Sabres) compared to 44[20] to 130[15] IAF aircraft losses. Independent research, conducted after the war reported 29 PAF aircraft lost including 10 F-86s left on the ground in the East compared to 59 IAF aircraft lost.[21] the PAF flying 2,914 combat sorties while the IAF flew 7,346 combat sorties[22][23] during the conflict.[24]

Close air support to the Pakistan Army was unexpectedly effective and the PAF is widely considered to have neutralized the large difference in military strength of India and Pakistan.[7]

1973 Yom Kippur War

During the war, sixteen Pakistan Air Force pilots volunteered to leave for the Middle East in order to support Egypt and Syria but by the time they arrived Egypt had already agreed on a cease-fire. Syria remained in a state of war against Israel so the PAF pilots became instructors there and formed the A-flight of 67 Squadron at Dumayr AB. One of the PAF pilots, Flt. Lt. Sattar Alvi flying a MiG-21 shot down an Israeli Air Force Mirage and was honoured by the Syrian government.[25][26][27]

1979–1988 Soviet-Afghan War

In 1979, the PAF's Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Anwar Shamim, was told by then President, and Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq, that Pakistan had reliable intels on Indian plans to attack and destroy the Pakistan's nuclear research facilities at Kahuta. ACM Shamim told General Zia that, "Indian aircraft could reach the area in 3 minutes whereas the PAF would take 8 minutes, allowing the Indians to attack the facility and return before the PAF could defend it". Because Kahuta was close to the Indian border it was decided that the best way to deter an Indian attack would be to procure new advanced fighters and weaponry. These could be used to mount a retaliatory attack on India's nuclear research facilities at Trombay in the event of an Indian attack on Kahuta. It was decided the most suitable aircraft would be the F-16 Fighting Falcon, which the United States eventually agreed to supply after the PAF refused to purchase the F-5E and F-5G. In 1983, when the first batch of F-16s reached Pakistan, ACM Shamim informed Zia of the PAF's capability to respond to an attack on the nuclear research facilities at Kahuta.[28][29]

A letter of agreement for up to 28 F-16A's and 12 F-16B's was signed December 1981. The contracts, Peace Gate I and Peace Gate II, were for 6 and 34 Block 15 models respectively which would be powered by the F100-PW-200 engine. The fist Peace Gate I aircraft was accepted at Fort Worth in October 1982. Two F-16A and four F-16B were delivered to Pakistan in 1983, the first F-16 arriving at PAF Base Sargodha (now known as PAF Base Mushaf) on 15 January 1983 flown by Squadron Leader Shahid Javed. The 34 remaining Peace Gate II aircraft were delivered between 1983 and 1987.[30][31] Six F-16A and four F-16B Block 15 OCU models were ordered as attrition replacements in December 1988 under the Peace Gate III contract. Another 60 F-16A/B were ordered in September 1989 under Peace Gate IV, but were later embargoed.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, in support of the pro-Soviet government in Kabul, which was being hard-pressed by Mujaheddin rebel forces, marked the start of a decade-long occupation. Mujaheddin rebels continued to harass the occupying Soviet military force as well as the forces of the Afghan regime that it was supporting. The war soon spilled over into neighboring Pakistan, with a large numbers of refugees fleeing to camps across the border in an attempt to escape the conflict. In addition, many of the rebels used Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to carry out forays into Afghanistan, and a steady flow of US-supplied arms were carried into Afghanistan from staging areas in Pakistan near the border. This inevitably resulted in border violations by Soviet and Afghan aircraft attempting to interdict these operations.

Between May 1986 and November 1988,[32] PAF F-16s have shot down at least eight intruders from Afghanistan. The first three of these (one Su-22, one probable Su-22, and one An-26) were shot down by two pilots from No. 9 Squadron. Pilots of No. 14 Squadron destroyed the remaining five intruders (two Su-22s, two MiG-23s, and one Su-25).[33] Most of these kills were by the AIM-9 Sidewinder, but at least one (a Su-22) was destroyed by cannon fire. Flight Lieutenant Khalid Mahmoud is credited with three of these kills. One F-16 was lost in these battles during an encounter between two F-16s and four Soviet Air Force MiG 23s on 29 April 1987. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Shahid Sikandar Khan, ejected safely.[34]

In 1985, Pakistan Air Force selected ATLIS II for its F-16 aircraft, making it the first non-European operator of this system. ATLIS-II pod is carried on the 5L intake station on the F-16. The first public demonstration of dropping a laser-guided bomb with ATLIS II was seen in Exercise High Mark 1989. Since then, ATLIS II has been a key element of PAF’s precision strike capability. Over the years precision targeting has been a distinct phenomenon overviewed regularly in PAF’ s operational exercises.[35]

The PAF is believed to have evaluated the Dassault Mirage 2000 in early 1981 and was planning to evaluate the F-16 Fighting Falcon afterwards.[36]

Project Sabre II was initiated by the PAF in 1987 and was aimed at developing a replacement for the aging Shenyang F-6 fleet. The Pak-American relationship were at a high during the Afghan-Soviet war, and Grumman Aerospace was asked to conduct a design study and consult on this project, with Pakistan and China being the expected end-users. However, after the Afghan-Soviet war ended, the subsequent US-imposed sanctions on Pakistan, and those on China resulted in Grumman Aerospace backing out, and the project was abandoned. The Chengdu F-7P was introduced in 1988 to replace the F-6.

1990–2001: The lost decade

Pakistan Air Force
Pakistani Air Force Ensign.svg

History of the PAF
Air Force weaponry
Units and infrastructure
Air Headquarters
Pakistan Air Force Squadrons
Air Force Bases
Special Services Wing
Air Force Strategic Command
Chief of Air Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee
Other information
Air Force Educational System
Air intelligence

After the Pressler amendment was passed, the U.S. placed sanctions and an arms embargo on Pakistan on 6 October 1990 due to the country's continued nuclear weapons programme. All eleven Peace Gate III F-16s, along with 7 F-16A and 10 F-16B of the 60 Peace Gate IV F-16s, which had been built by the end of 1994 were embargoed and put into storage in the United States.[30][31]

Desperate for a new high-tech combat aircraft, between late 1990 and 1993 the PAF evaluated the European Panavia Tornado MRCA (multi-role combat aircraft) and rejected it. The Mirage 2000E and an offer from Poland for the supply of MiG-29 and Su-27 were also considered but nothing materialised. In 1992 the PAF again looked at the Mirage 2000, reviving a proposal from the early 1980s to procure around 20-40 aircraft, but again a sale did not occur because France did not want to sell a fully capable version due to political reasons. In August 1994 the PAF was offered the Saab JAS-39 Gripen by Sweden, but again the sale did not occur because 20% of the Gripen's components were from the U.S. and Pakistan was still under U.S. sanctions.[37]

In mid-1992 Pakistan was close to signing a contract for the supply of 40 Dassault Mirage 2000, equipped with Thomson-CSF RDM/7 radars, from France.[38]

In mid-1994 it was reported that the Russian manufacturers Sukhoi and Mikoyan were offering the Su-27 and MiG-29.[39] But Pakistan was later reported to be negotiating for supply of the Dassault Mirage 2000-5.[40] French and Russian teams visited Pakistan on 27 November 1994 and it was speculated that interest in the Russian aircraft was to pressure France into reducing the price of the Mirage 2000. Stated requirement was for up to 40 aircraft.[41]

1999 India-Pakistan Kargil Conflict

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) did not see active combat during the low-intensity Kargil Conflict between India and Pakistan during the summer of 1999 but remained on high air defence alert (ADA) and performed F-16 and F-7MP combat air patrols (CAPs) near the eastern border with India. The PAF closely monitored and tracked the IAF's movements near the Line of Control in Kashmir as well as the India-Pakistan international border.

2008 air alert

After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, PAF was put on high alert. It deployed to all its wartime locations and started combat air patrols. The speed and intensity of the deployment and PAF's readiness took the Indian Army High Command by surprise and later reports suggest was the main factor in the Indian decision of not going for cross border raids inside Pakistan.[42][43] Pakistani press reported issuance of a PAF Standing Order to launch an immediate counterattack in case of an air attack from India, after Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee threatened Pakistani President.[42][43]

2011 Abottabad Operation

An initial investigation report revealed that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) reported the movement of some half-a-dozen planes near the Jalalabad border at 11 pm before the US helicopters entered Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden. "One aircraft was identified as a US AWACS and the remaining five were recognised as F-18 jets of the US. These planes flew near the Pakistani border, but did not cross into the airspace of Pakistan,"[44] PAF was working under the peace time conditions prior to the 2 May incident on the eastern border. Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Syed Athar Ali provided a detailed statement explaining the salient features of Pakistan’s defence policy. "He apprised the commission that none of the government departments including the ministry of defence, the Joint Staff Headquarters or any military service ever considered the US or Afghanistan a direct threat," said an official handout issued after the meeting.[45]

On detection of intrusion, PAF jets on air defence alert were scrambled from Sargodha and the PAF immediately took adequate operational measures as per standard operating procedure. The PAF aircraft continued their presence in Abbottabad area till early morning and later returned to their air bases.[46]

Counter-insurgency operations

The Pakistan Army faced several problems during its 2009 offensive against the Taliban in north-west Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis vacated the area when the offensive was announced and, eventually, over 2 million had to be accommodated in refugee camps. The offensive was to be completed as quickly as possible to allow the refugees to return to their homes but the army's fleet attack helicopters were not sufficient to provide adequate support to the infantry. The PAF was sent into action against the Taliban to make up for the lack of helicopter gunships. Because the PAF was trained and equipped to fight a conventional war, a new "counter-terrorist doctrine" had to be improvised.[47]

The PAF's Saffron Bandit 2009/2010 exercise focused on extensive training of combat personnel to undertake COIN operations. New equipment was inducted to improve the PAF's joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. A C-130 transport aircraft was indigenously modified for day/night ISR operations.[47][48]

The PAF had initially been forced to use Google Earth for reconnaissance imagery until high resolution infra-red sensors were provided by the U.S. prior to the army's 2009 campaign in the Swat valley. These were installed on around 10 of the PAF's F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters and used to gather detailed reconnaissance imagery of the entire valley. During close air support missions for Pak Army from late 2008 to mid-2009, PAF conducted more than 5,500 bombing missions and dropped 10,600 bombs in northwest tribal areas.[49] Use of laser-guided bombs was increased to 80% of munitions used, as compared to 40% in the previous 2008 Bajaur campaign. A small corps of ground spotters were trained and used by the PAF, in addition to PA spotters, to identify high value targets.[50]

Prior to the PA's offensive into South Waziristan the PAF attacked militant infrastructure with 500 lb and 2000 lb bombs.[50]

A number of civilian deaths occurred during PAF air strikes on 10 April 2010 in the Khyber tribal region. According to a Pakistani military source, the first bombing was targeted at a gathering of militants in a compound. Local people, who had quickly moved onto the scene to recover the dead and wounded, were then killed during a second air strike. There was no confirmed death toll but at least 30 civilian deaths had occurred according to the military source, whereas a local official stated at least 73 locals, including women and children, were killed.[51] A six-member committee of tribal elders from the area, tasked with finding the exact number of civilian casualties, reported that 61 civilians were killed and 21 wounded. This was not confirmed by military or political leaders but Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, gave a public apology on 17 April.[52][53] It is reported that BBC news and several other media correspondences were not allowed to take interviews from injured which makes the whole episode more mysterious.[54]


The Air Force has about 65,000 active personnel with about 10,000 reserves. The Chief of the Air Staff holds the operational and administrative powers. He is assisted by a Vice Chief of Air Staff and six Deputy Chiefs of the Air Staff who control and administer the Administration, Operations, Engineering, Supply (logistics), Personnel, and Training divisions of the PAF respectively. Recently, the Air Headquarters (AHQ) has been moved from Chaklala to Islamabad. Major Air force bases are at Shorkot, Karachi, Quetta, Kamra, Peshawar, Mianwali, Sargodha and Risalpur. There are many war-time operational forward bases, civilian airstrips and runways as well as emergency motorways.


  • Air Force Strategic Command (AFSC), Islamabad
  • Northern Air Command (NAC), Peshawar
  • Central Air Command (CAC), Lahore
  • Southern Air Command (SAC), Karachi
  • Air Defence Command (ADC), Chaklala, Rawalpindi


These are the bases from which the PAF planes operate during peace time.[55] They have complete infrastructure of hardened shelters, control towers, workshops, ordnance depots etc. There are ten flying bases and also seven non-flying bases:

Flying bases


Non-flying bases

Rank structure

Structure of the Commissioned officer rank of the Pakistan Air Force
Pay grade O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
Insignia ACM.png
US-O10 insignia.svg
US-O9 insignia.svg
US-O8 insignia.svg
Air Cdre.png
US-O7 insignia.svg
Gp Capt.png Wg Cdr.png Sqn Ldr.png Flt Lt.png Flg Off.png Plt Off.png
Title Air Chief Marshal Air Marshal Air-vice Marshal Air-Commodore Group-Captain Wing-Commander Squadron Leader Flight Lieutenant Flying Officer Pilot Officer
Abbreviation ACM AM AVM Air Cdre Gp Capt Wg Cdr Sqn Ldr Ft Lt F Off P Off
NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1
Rank Hierarchy 4-star Air Marshal 3-star Air-Marshall 2-star Air-Marshal 1-star Officer
Structure of the Enlisted rank of the Pakistan Air Force
Pay grade OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1 OR-1
Insignia Chief Warrant Officer Pakistan Air Force.JPG Warrant Officer Pakistan Air Force.JPG Asst. Warrant Officer Pakistan Air Force.JPG Senior Technician Pakistan Air Force.jpg Corporal Technician Pakistan Air Force.JPG Junior Technician Pakistan Air Force.JPG Senior Aircraftman Pakistan Air Force.JPG Leading Aircraftman Pakistan Air Force.JPG Aircraftman Pakistan Air Force.JPG
Title Chief Warrant Officer Warrant Officer Assistant Warrant Officer Chief Technician Senior Technician Corporal Technician Junior Technician Senior Aircraftman Leading Aircraftman Aircraftman
Abbreviation CWO WO AWO Chf Tech Snr Tech Cpl Tech Jnr Tech SAC LAC AC
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1 OR-1
  • Civilian Gazetted Officer
  • Stenographer
  • Stenotypist
  • Storeman
  • Clerk


Current High Command

Air Headquarters
  • Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, NI(M), TBt — Chief of Air Staff (CAS)
  • Air Marshal Syed Athar Hussain Bukhari, HI(M), SBt — Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS)
  • Air Marshal Asim Suleiman, HI(M), SBt — Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Administration (DCAS A)
  • Air Marshal Muhammad Jamshed Khan, HI(M), SBt — Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Support (DCAS S)
  • Air Marshal Sohail Aman, HI(M) — Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Operations (DCAS O)
  • Air Vice Marshal Saeed Muhammad Khan, SI(M), SBt — Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Training (DCAS T)
  • Air Vice Marshal Javaid Ahmed, SI(M) — Chief Project Director, JF-17 Thunder (CPD JF-17)
  • Air Vice Marshal Sohail Ahmad, SI(M) — Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Personnel (DCAS P)
  • Air Vice Marshal Junaid Ahmed Siddiqui, SI(M), SBt — DG Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (DG C4I)
  • Air Vice Marshal Muhammad Ashfaque Arain, SI(M), SBt — DG Air Force Strategic Command (DG AFSC)
  • Air Vice Marshal Anis-ur-Rehman, SI(M) — Inspector General Air Force (IG AF)
  • Air Vice Marshal Muhammad Salman, SI(M) — Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Engineering (DCAS E)
  • Air Vice Marshal Pirzada Kamaluddin A Siddiqui, TI(M) — DG Air Intelligence (DG AI)
  • Air Vice Marshal Ijaz Mahmood Malik, HI(M) — Air Officer Commanding, Air Defence Command (AOC ADC), Chaklala
  • Air Vice Marshal Rashid Kamal, SI(M) — Air Officer Commanding, Pakistan Air Force Academy (AOC PAF Academy), Risalpur
  • Air Vice Marshal Farooq Habib, SI(M) — Commandant, PAF Air War College (Comdt PAF AWC), Karachi
  • Air Vice Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, SI(M) — Air Officer Commanding, Central Air Command (AOC CAC), Lahore
  • Air Vice Marshal Arshad Mahmood Malik, SI(M) — Air Officer Commanding, Northern Air Command (AOC NAC), Peshawar
  • Air Vice Marshal Azhar Hasan Rizvi, SI(M) — Air Officer Commanding, Southern Air Command (AOC SAC), Karachi
External appointments
  • Air Marshal Sohail Gul Khan, HI(M) — Chairman, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra
  • Air Vice Marshal Arshad Quddus, HI(M), TBt — Additional Secretary-II (PAF) at Ministry of Defence (MoD), Rawalpindi
  • Air Vice Marshal Syed Razi Nawab, HI(M) — Dean, Faculty of Security Studies (Dean FSS) at NDU, Islamabad
  • Air Vice Marshal Syed Hassan Raza, SI(M), SBt — DG Logistics (DG Log) at Joint Staff HQ (JSHQ), Chaklala
  • Air Vice Marshal Hamid Shahab Hashmi, HI(M) — Director, Precision Engineering Complex (Dir PEC) at PIA, Karachi
  • Air Vice Marshal Arshad Khan, SI(M) — DG Air Weapons Complex (DG AWC), Wah Cantonment
  • Air Vice Marshal Sohail Ahmad Malik, SI(M) — Managing Director, Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (MD AMF) at PAC Kamra
  • Air Vice Marshal Azam Khan, SI(M) — DG Joint Operations (DG JO) at GHQ, Rawalpindi
  • Air Vice Marshal Asad Lodhi, SI(M) — DG Defence Purchase (DG DP) at Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP), Rawalpindi
  • Air Vice Marshal Muhammad Iqbal, SI(M) — DG (Media) at Inter-Services Intelligence (DGM ISI), Islamabad
  • Air Vice Marshal Ahmad Ejaz Nadeem, SI(M) — Principal, Research Center for Modeling and Simulation (RCMS) at NUST, Islamabad
  • Air Vice Marshal Khawar Hussain, SI(M) — Deputy DG, Civil Aviation Authority (DDG CAA), Karachi

List of Air Force chiefs

  1. Air Vice Marshal Allan Perry-Keene (15 August 1947 – 17 February 1949)
  2. Air Vice Marshal Richard Atcherley (18 February 1949 – 6 May 1951)
  3. Air Vice Marshal Leslie William Cannon (7 May 1951 – 19 June 1955)
  4. Air Vice Marshal Arthur McDonald (20 June 1955 – 22 July 1957)
  5. Air Marshal Asghar Khan (23 July 1957 – 22 July 1965)
  6. Air Marshal Nur Khan (23 July 1965 – 31 August 1969)
  7. Air Marshal Abdul Rahim Khan (1 September 1969 – 2 March 1972)
  8. Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhry (3 March 1972 – 15 April 1974)
  9. Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan (16 April 1974 – 22 July 1978)
  10. Air Chief Marshal Anwar Shamim (23 July 1978 – 5 March 1985)
  11. Air Chief Marshal Jamal A. Khan (6 March 1985 – 8 March 1988)
  12. Air Chief Marshal Hakimullah (9 March 1988 – 9 March 1991)
  13. Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan (9 March 1991 – 8 November 1994)
  14. Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak (8 November 1994 – 7 November 1997)
  15. Air Chief Marshal Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi (7 November 1997 – 20 November 2000)
  16. Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir (20 November 2000 – 20 February 2003)
  17. Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat (18 March 2003 – 18 March 2006)
  18. Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed (18 March 2006 – 18 March 2009)
  19. Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman (19 March 2009 – 19 March 2012)
  20. Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt (19 March 2012 – present)

Awards for valour

Air Commodore Muhammad Mahmood Alam "Little Dragon". Ace in a Day of the Pakistan Air Force

The Nishan-e-Haider (Urdu:نشان حیدر) (Order of Ali), is the highest military award given by Pakistan. Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas (1951–20 August 1971) is the only officer of the PAF to be awarded the Nishan-e-Haider for sacrificing his life to save an aircraft from being hijacked to India.[56] Other awards include:

Special Forces

PAF Special Services Wing carrying FN F2000 rifles while on training at the Fort Lewis, Washington in USA on, July 23, 2007.

Special Service Wing (SSW) is an independent commando division of the Pakistan Air Force. It is an elite special operations force based upon the US Air Force's 1st Special Operations Wing unit and the US Army's Ranger units. The division has recently been created and is fielding between 120 to 130 men in one company.

Women in the PAF

Previously, women had been employed by Pakistan's armed forces in non-combat roles only, such as the medical corps,[65] and the PAF had remained all-male throughout its history.[66] However, since 2003 women have been allowed to enroll in the aerospace engineering and other programs of PAF Academy Risalpur, including fighter pilot training programmes.[65] It has been stated that standards are not compromised for women, those who do not achieve the same performance as their male counterparts are dropped from the course. A level of segregation between the genders is maintained. For example, early-morning parades are performed together but some parts of training, mainly physical exercises, are done with males and females separated. According to Squadron Leader Shazia Ahmed, the officer in charge of the first female cadets and a psychologist, this also improves confidence of the women.[66]

In 2005 it was reported that two batches in the Air Force Academy's flying wing contained 10 women, with many more in the engineering and aerospace wings. Cadet Saba Khan, from Quetta in Balochistan, applied after reading a newspaper advertisement seeking female cadets. She was one of the first four women to pass the first stages of flying training on propeller-driven light aircraft and move onto faster jet-powered training aircraft.[66]

In March 2006, the PAF inducted a batch of 34 fighter pilots which included the organisation's first four female fighter pilots. Three years of training had been completed by the pilots at PAF Academy Risalpur before they graduated and were awarded their Flying Badges during the ceremony. Certificates of honour were handed to the successful cadets by a "delighted" General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, vice chief of the Pakistan Army, who acknowledged that the PAF was the first of the Pakistan Armed Forces to introduce women to its combat units. One of the women, Flying Officer Nadia Gul, was awarded a trophy for best academic achievement. The other female graduates were Mariam Khalil, Saira Batool and the above-mentioned Saba Khan.[65] A second batch of pilots, including 3 female pilots, graduated from the 117th GD(P) course at PAF Academy Risalpur in September 2006. The Sword of Honour for best all-round performance was awarded to Aviation Cadet Saira Amin, the first female pilot to win the award. Aviation Cadet Saira Amin won the Asghar Hussain Trophy for best performance in academics.[67]

External video
A news report on the PAF's first operationally qualified female fighter pilots.
An interview with Ambreen Gul. (Urdu language)

In September 2009 it was reported that seven women had qualified as operational fighter pilots on the Chengdu F-7, the first female combat pilots in the PAF's history, one of them being Ambreen Gull. Commanding Officer Tanvir Piracha emphasised that if the female pilots "are not good enough as per their male counterparts, we don't let them fly." It was noted that some of the female pilots wear the hijab while others do not.[68]

Religious Minorities in the PAF

Religious minorities have served in the PAF with distinction since its inception: Air Vice Marshal Eric Gordon Hall was Base Commander of Chaklala Air Base during the 1965 Indo-Pak War; Air Commodore Nazir Latif; Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry fought in the 1965 Indo-Pak War and, later helped establish the Combat Commanders School (CCS); Wing Commander Melvin Leslie Middlecoat was Commanding Officer of No. 9 Squadron during the 1965 Indo-Pak War; Squadron Leader Peter Christy; Patrick Desmond Callaghan is another Christian officer of who rose to the rank of Air Vice Marshal. He served as Eastern Air Force Command and Deputy Chief of Air Staff.[69] Wing Commander Ronald Felix is a test pilot on the JF-17 Thunder since 2010 and was one of two PAF pilots flying the JF-17 at the 2011 Izmir Air Show in Turkey.


Combat aircraft

Chengdu F-7PG

PAF F-16s in 2010

The PAF currently operates approximately 450 combat aircraft of 4 different types, planned to be reduced to 3 types by 2015. There are around 20 front-line squadrons.[70]

The primary air defence fighter is the Chengdu F-7, of which two variants are in service; 120 F-7P and 60 F-7PG. An upgraded variant of the F-7M, F-7P incorporates many PAF-specific modifications such as Martin-Baker ejection seat, two extra weapon stations for a total of 5, an extra 30 mm cannon and an Italian-designed FIAR Grifo 7 multi-mode radar. F-7P was inducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, intended to supplement a fleet of more advanced F-16 fighters. The Grifo 7 radar was later upgraded to the Grifo 7 mk.II version. The F-7PG variant incorporates a "cranked delta" wing which improves take-off, landing and turning performance considerably, as well as extra space in the nose to accommodate the much improved Grifo 7PG radar. F-7 replaced around 250 Shenyang J-6 fighters which were the PAF's workhorse throughout the 1970s and 1980s. F-7 is also used to perform limited strike duties.[citation needed]

The second most numerous type is the French-designed Dassault Mirage III and Dassault Mirage 5, which differ mainly in nose shape and avionics fit. Mirage III fighters are geared towards performing multiple mission types, including interception and strike, whereas Mirage 5 fighters are more focused towards strike missions. Around 150 Mirage fighters are in service, many of which are second-hand procured from other countries, making the PAF the largest operator of the type in the world. In the 1990s and early 2000s, 33 Mirage III and 34 Mirage 5 fighters were upgraded under Project ROSE (Retrofit Of Strike Element) with modern avionics, significantly improving their capabilities. Mirage III ROSE fighters are configured for multiple mission types such as air superiority and strike, whereas Mirage 5 ROSE fighters specialise in the day/night strike role.

A JF-17 taxiing towards a runway. A Mirage 5 is parked in the background with its canopy raised.

The JF-17 Thunder, a new fighter jointly developed by China and Pakistan, is currently being inducted by the PAF and it is expected to gradually replace all Dassault Mirage III/5, Nanchang A-5 and Chengdu F-7 by 2015. A total of 250-300 aircraft are planned to be built, with later aircraft featuring improved airframes, avionics and engines. Currently 30 aircraft are in service and the first JF-17 squadron is officially made operational. Number 26 squadron is established in Kamra in which 14 airplanes are initially inducted. With the establishment of the first squadron of the JF-17, the two A-5 squadrons will also be grounded. The first Pakistani-built JF-17, manufactured at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, was rolled out and handed over to the PAF on 23 November 2009.

PAF F-16D Block 52+

The most capable fighter in PAF service from 1983 to 2007 has been the F-16 Fighting Falcon. 40 of the F-16A/B Block 15 models were delivered from 1983 to 1987. Deliveries of another 28 F-16A/B were stopped after the 1990 arms embargo imposed on Pakistan under the Pressler amendment but 14 of these were later delivered during 2005-2008. The F-16A/B fleet is to be upgraded with MLU (Mid-Life Update) modification kits and Falcon Star Structural Service Life Enhancement kits by Turkish Aerospace Industries starting in September 2010 at a rate of 1 per month. Four F-16A/B are already undergoing upgrade in the U.S. for delivery in 2011. The MLU package will include new APG-69v9 radars, Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems and Link-16 data-links, along with other new communications, targeting and electronic warfare systems.[71][72]

In 2006, 12 F-16C and 6 F-16D Block 52+ were ordered with a further 18 aircraft optional. 14 of the optional fighters were ordered in 2010.[73][74] The first batch of 3 F-16C/D fighters landed at PAF Base Shahbaz, Jacacobad, on 26 June 2010.[75][76] Pakistan also received 14 used F-16s from the US free of cost.[77]

The Nanchang A-5C (or A-5III) is a Chinese-designed light bomber. Inducted in 1982 to help defend against a possible attack from the Soviet Union, it replaced the last of the PAF's B-57 Canberra bombers and around 100 were procured in total for a reported flyaway cost of US$1 million each. Numbers were reduced later and around 42 remain in service. Retirement of the type was initially planned in the late 1990s and shortfall in capabilities was to be met by upgraded Mirage 5 fighters modified under Project ROSE, but the aircraft's excellent flight safety record ensured it stayed operational.All A-5III[78] have been retired and replaced by JF-17 Thunder in April 2011.

The PAF is to induct a number of the Chinese Chengdu FC-20, an advanced PAF-specific variant of the Chengdu J-10. 36 fighters equipping two FC-20 squadrons are expected to be delivered by 2015[79] and, according to some reports, the FC-20 fleet may eventually be increased to 150 fighters.[80]

Special mission aircraft

Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft were first sought by the PAF in the 1980s, but the requirement was not met until December 2009 when the first of four Saab 2000 Erieye aircraft ordered in 2006 was delivered. The remaining three Erieye are expected to be delivered in 2010. Built to the PAF's specifications, the Saab 2000 Erieye is fitted with 5 operator stations and 4 command stations. The aircraft's Erieye radar has a range of 450 km and is also capable of identifying the type of aircraft and the weapons it is carrying.[81] Erieye will be connected via data-link to the PAF's command and control ground environment as well as combat aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Four Chinese ZDK-03 AEW&C aircraft have also been ordered, with first delivery expected in late 2010.[82] These are believed to be a PAF-specific version of the KJ-200, incorporating a Chinese AESA radar similar to the Erieye mounted on the Shaanxi Y-8F600 transport aircraft.

The PAF's No.24 Blinders squadron operates three Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft in the ELINT and ECM roles.[citation needed]

Transport aircraft

PAF C-130 Hercules

PAF Il-78 aircraft.

The C-130 Hercules has been the PAF's primary tactical transport aircraft since its induction in the early 1960s. Currently around 5 C-130B and 11 C-130E models are in service, upgraded with Allison T56-A-15 turboprops and extended fatigue lives by Lockheed-Georgia Company.[83] The C-130 is supplemented by 4 CASA CN-235 STOL transports, although the 4th aircraft is equipped with an interior for transporting VIPs such as the PAF Chief of Air Staff. Heavy-lift transports comprise 3 Boeing 707s transferred from Pakistan International Airlines starting 1986.

External video
A pair of Mirage III fighters are refuelled in the air by the PAF's Il-78 tanker during exercise High Mark 2010.[81]

In December 2009 the PAF received its first of four Il-78 aircraft which is capable of aerial refuelling as well as transporting cargo. Aerial refuelling capability was first demonstrated during the High Mark 2010 exercise on 6 April 2010 when two of the PAF's Mirage III fighters were simultaneously refuelled in the air by the Il-78.[81][84][85][86][87]

PAF Super Mushak Trainer

Surface-to-air missile systems

  • Crotale 4000 - A short to medium range air defence system. 11 Crotale 2000 acquisition units and 23 missile batteries were inducted in 1976. These were later upgraded to Crotale 4000 standard in Pakistan, increasing missile range from 20 km to 30 km.[citation needed] Crotale is expected to be replaced by Spada 2000.[88]
  • MBDA Spada 2000 - A low to medium altitude air defence system consisting of a radar with 60 km range and four 6-cell missile launchers. The Aspide 2000 missile can intercept enemy missiles and aircraft at a range of over 20 km. A contract for 10 batteries was signed after Spada 2000 was selected over competing systems from Raytheon, Diehl BGT and Saab AB and pre-contract firing tests in Pakistan, which were assisted by the Italian Air Force.[89] Latest reports state Pakistan is to test the Spada 2000 air defence system in July 2010, followed by deliveries of first of ten batteries. Deliveries of all ten batteries are reported to be completed by 2013 with further orders possible.[90] Pakistan test fired the new SPADA 2000 Plus air defence missile system in July 2010. The missile system was tested by the Range & Instrumentation Division of SUPARCO (National Space Agency). Three drone planes were successfully intercepted and shot down by the SPADA 2000 Plus Missile System.
  • HQ-2 - Chinese version of SA-2 Guideline high altitude air defence system, 12 or more batteries procured circa 1970s.[citation needed]
  • HQ-9 - In October 2003 it was reported that China had closed a deal with Pakistan to supply an unspecified number of FT-2000 systems, an anti-radiation variant of the HQ-9 long range air defence system,[91] although in March 2009 a report was published stating that Pakistan was not considering importing the missile.[92] It was reported in mid-2008 that Pakistan intended to purchase a high altitude air defence and missile defence system and the FD-2000, another variant of HQ-9, was expected to be chosen.[88][93]
  • RBS 70: Low-altitude air defence system that fires laser beam-riding missiles.[citation needed]
  • Anza Mk.1/Mk.2/Mk.3: Man-portable air defence system of Pakistani origin which is made by Kahuta Research Laboratories.[citation needed]
  • Mistral: Low altitude man-portable air defence system of French origin.[citation needed]
  • FIM-92 Stinger: Low altitude man-portable air defence system of U.S. origin.[citation needed]

Modernisation and acquisitions

The first F-16D Block 52 fighter of PAF, rolled out on 13 October 2009, undergoing flight testing in the U.S. prior to delivery.

In light of Pakistan's significant contribution to the War on Terror,[94][95] the United States and Western European countries, namely Germany and France, lifted their defense related sanctions on Pakistan; enabling the country to once again seek advanced Western military hardware. Since the lifting of sanctions, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) became heavily active in evaluating potential military hardware such as new fighter aircraft, radars and land based air-defense systems. However the urgent relief needed in Kashmir after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake forced the Pakistani military to stall its modernisation programme so it could divert its resources for fuel and operations during the rescue efforts.

The modernisation stall ended in April 2006 when the Pakistani cabinet approved the PAF's proposals to procure new aircraft and systems from several sources, including modern combat aircraft from the U.S. and China. The AFFDP 2019 (Armed Forces Development Programme 2019) would oversee the modernisation of the Pakistan Air Force from 2006 to 2019.[96]

The Bush administration on 24 July 2008 informed the US Congress it plans to shift nearly $230 million of $300 million in aid from counterterrorism programs to upgrading Pakistan's aging F-16s.[97] The Bush administration previously announced on 27 June 2008 it was proposing to sell Pakistan ITT Corporation's electronic warfare gear valued at up to $75 million to enhance Islamabad's existing F-16s.[98] Pakistan has asked about buying as many as 21 AN/ALQ-211(V)9 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite pods, or AIDEWS, and related equipment.[99] The proposed sale will ensure that the existing fleet is "compatible" with new F-16 Block 50/52 fighters being purchased by Islamabad.

After 9/11 the U.S. and Pakistan began discussing the release of the embargoed F-16s and a purchase of new aircraft. Of the 28 F-16A/B built under the Peace Gate III/IV contracts and embargoed in 1990, 14 delivered as EDA (Excess Defense Articles) from 2005 to 2008.,[100] two of which were delivered on 10 July 2007.[101] Between 2005 and 2008, 14 F-16A/B Block 15 OCU fighters were delivered to the PAF under renewed post-9/11 ties between the U.S. and Pakistan. These had originally been built for Pakistan under the Peace Gate III/IV contracts but were never delivered due to the U.S. arms embargo imposed in 1990.[102]

To upgrade the F-16A/B fleet, 32 Falcon STAR kits were purchased for the original Peace Gate I aircraft and 35 Mid-Life Update (MLU) kits were ordered, with 11 more MLU kits optional, in . 4 F-16A/B being upgraded in the U.S. to F-16AM/BM, delivery expected December 2011.[100] F-16A/B in PAF service to be upgraded starting October 2010 by Turkish Aerospace Industries, 1 per month.[103][104]

The Peace Drive I contract for 12 F-16C and 6 F-16D Block 52+ (Advanced Block 52) aircraft, powered by F100-PW-229 engines was signed on 30 September 2006.[105][106] The first F-16 to be completed, an F-16D, was rolled out on 13 October 2009 and began flight testing.[107][108][109][110][111] The first batch of F-16C/D Block 52+, two F-16D and one F-16C, landed at PAF Base Shahbaz, Jacobabad, on 26 June 2010[75][76] and one more F-16C was received by 5 July 2010.[112]

On 13 December 2008, the Government of Pakistan stated that two Indian Air Force aircraft were intercepted by the PAF kilometres within Pakistani airspace. This charge was denied by the Indian government.[113]

During talks with a delegation from the French Senate on Monday 28 September 2009, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stated that the PAF had used most of its stockpile of laser-guided munitions against militants in the Malakand and FATA regions and that replacements for such types of equipment were urgently required.[114]

December 2009 saw the delivery of the PAF's first Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C from Sweden and Il-78MP Midas aerial refuelling tanker/military transport aircraft from Ukraine.[115][116][117]

The PAF is reported to be considering purchasing the Hongdu L-15 advanced jet trainer to train pilots for high-tech fighters such as the FC-20. Extensive evaluations of the aircraft took place in Pakistan during December 2009.[118][119]

On 26 June 2010 the first batch of 3 F-16C/D Block 52+ fighters were delivered to PAF Base Shahbaz, Jacobabad.[120] According to Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman (the then Chief of Air Staff) the new fighters would eliminate the PAF's limitations in precision night-time strike operations,[121] the existing capability being based on around 34 Dassault Mirage 5 fighters upgraded with new avionics for night-time precision strike missions under the Retrofit Of Strike Element (ROSE) programme during 1999-2004.[122][123][124] SABIR (Special Airborne Mission Installation & Response System) which is a FLIR System that has Brite Star II and Star Safire III EO/IR sensors installed on the one C130. (this a 'bolt on system' and is installed in place of the parachute door) This system was extensively used during operation in FATA.


A PAF F-7PG flies alongside a Mirage 2000-9 and F-16E/F Block 60 fighters of the UAEAF and a RJAF F-16 during ATLC 2009.

The PAF sent a contingent of six F-16A/B fighters to the international Anatolian Eagle 2004 exercise in Turkey.[125][126] After around 1 year of planning, in 2005 the PAF launched the High Mark 2005 exercise which lasted for one month and also involved the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Navy. The scenario saw two opposing forces, Blueland and Foxland, engaging in simulated combat involving both offensive and defensive operations. It was stated that the exercise would have 3 stages and PAF aircraft would fly 8200 sorties. Involvement of army and navy units was aimed at providing more realistic operational scenarios. High Mark 2005 followed the Tempest-1 exercise which was focused purely on air power but differed in terms of duration, intensity and complexity of air operations.[127]

A contingent of six F-16A/B fighters was sent to Turkey's international Anatolian Eagle 2006 exercise. In 2008 the Turkish Air Force sent five F-16C/D fighters and 50 personnel of 191 Kobras Filo (191 Cobras Squadron) to Pakistan to take part in the joint Operation Indus Viper 2008 exercise at PAF Base Mushaf (Sargodha).[126]

In the summer of 2005 a PAF team of 20 airmen, including pilots, navigators, engineers, maintenance technicians and a C-130E was sent to the U.S. to take part in the AMC (Air Mobility Command) Rodeo.[128] The PAF later took part in the July 2007 AMC Rodeo.[129][130]

A PAF Mirage III of No. 7 Bandits Squadron alongside a US Navy F-18 and F-16s of the USAF and RJAF

In 2009, while undertaking combat operations against militants in FATA and Swat, the PAF initiated the Saffron Bandit exercise with the aim of training the PAF's entire combat force to undertake such anti-terrorist operations.[131][132] In December 2009 the PAF sent six Chengdu F-7PG fighters, of No. 31 Wing based at PAF Base Samungli, to the United Arab Emirates to take part in the Air Tactics Leadership Course (ATLC), also known as Operation Iron Falcon, at Al Dhafra Air Base.[133][134][135]

The PAF's High Mark 2010 exercise was launched on 15 March 2010, the first time a High Mark exercise had been conducted since 2005, after all PAF received their Air Tasking Orders (ATO). The country-wide exercise involved units based all over Pakistan, from Skardu to the Arabian Sea, at all Main Operating Bases and Forward Operating Bases. Joint operations involving the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Navy were also conducted, aiming to test and improve integration and cooperation between the three arms. Operations emphasised a near-realistic simulation of the war-time environment, exposure of PAF aircrews to contemporary concepts of air combat, new employment concepts and joint operations between air force, army and navy. New inductions such as the JF-17 Thunder fighter, Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C and Il-78 Multi-Role Tanker Transports also took part.[136] On 6 April 2010 the end of the first phase of exercise High Mark 2010 was celebrated with a firepower demonstration at the PAF's firing range facility in the deserts of Thal. The 90-minute demo involved the new JF-17 Thunder fighter, Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C and Il-78 MRTT aircraft. The H-2 SOW (Stand-Off Weapon) was also shown to the public for the first time, being launched from around 60 km away before hitting its target, and a mock counter-insurgency operation was performed by troops. The demo heralded the beginning of High Mark 2010's second phase where the PAF would practice joint operations with the Pakistan Army during the army's exercise Azm-e-Nau-3 (New Resolve 3).[137] During High Mark 2010 a Chengdu F-7 and Mirage 5 fighter (flown by Squadron Leader Nasir Mehmood and Wing Commander Atta ur Rehman respectively) practised landing, refuelling and take-off operations from a Pakistani motorway. It was reported that the PAF is in negotiations with the Ministry of Communications to set up all required facilities for Air Force operations on the motorways and highways of Pakistan.[138][139]

A PAF F-16 is refuelled in-flight by a USAF KC-135 tanker during Red Flag 2010.

A PAF Mirage III competes in the Alert Scramble Competition during Falcon Air Meet 2010 in Jordan.

In July 2010 the PAF sent six F-16B fighters of No. 9 Griffins Squadron and 100 PAF personnel to Nellis Air Force Base in the U.S. to participate in the international Red Flag exercise for the first time. During the exercise the PAF pilots practised in-flight refuelling of their F-16s with the KC-135 Stratotanker.[140][141][142][143][144]

External video
Mirage III ROSE fighters of the PAF's No. 7 Bandits Squadron take part in the Falcon Air Meet 2010 exercise.

In October 2010 the PAF's No. 7 Bandits Squadron sent a team of its Dassault Mirage III ROSE fighters to Jordan to participate in the Falcon Air Meet 2010 exercise at Azraq Royal Jordanian Air Base.[145][146] January 2011 saw a PAF contingent of F-16A/B and Dassault Mirage fighters take part in the Al-Saqoor II exercise in Saudi Arabia with the Royal Saudi Air Force.[147][148][149] In March 2011 a joint Sino-Pakistani exercise, Shaheen 1, was conducted involving a contingent of Chinese aircraft and personnel from the PLAAF.[150] Information on which aircraft were used by each side in the exercise was not released, but photos of Pakistani pilots inspecting what appeared to be Chinese Shenyang J-11B fighters were released on the internet. The exercise lasted for around 4 weeks and was the first time the PLAAF had deployed to and conducted "operational" aerial maneuvers in Pakistan with the PAF.[151]

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