Saturday, July 7, 2007

Modernizing Pakistani Air Defenses

So I sat down this afternoon and decided to wrap my head around the whole Pakistani air defense issue in light of the FC-1 purchase.

The issue as I see it is that the Pakistani Air Forces (and I am including their SAM network as part of the air forces, I don't think they all report to the PAF but it makes it simpler for the sake of talking about the overall air defense picture) currently lack a robust air defense capability.

Now, we're not talking about pilot skill, PAF vs. IAF inventories, or anything of that nature here. What I mean by that statement is that the current PAF lacks a serious long-range air defense network. Pakistan does possess a number of EW radar systems from various sources, and their EW picture is, for the most part, adequate. There is a concern that the radar picture could be muddled in some areas due to the uneven terrain found throughout the nation, but this can easily be rectified by employing an AEW&C aircraft, such as the Saab platform currently being purchased for the PAF. Personally, I would've preferred a larger platform with the ability to remain on station longer, perhaps one of the new Chinese Y-8 models, but the Saab platform is certainly not going to fall short in the radar performance category, so it should still be perfectly suitable for the needs of the PAF.

The real problem currently lies in the business end of the IADS network, the shooters. Let's examine the air picture first.

The PAF currently has to rely on relatively short-legged, older technology aircraft for the most part (the F-16A does enjoy a bit of a range benefit over the F-7s), and they lack a BVR weapon. That means that any intruder with a BVR weapon will put the PAF interceptor pilot at a disadvantage. This is currently being rectified through the purchase and co-production of the FC-1, which will employ the Chinese SD-10 BVR AAM. An upgrade for the PAF F-16 fleet is also being sought, as well as at least 18 new Block 50/52 jets, complete with AIM-120 BVR AAM capability. So, the airborne intercept portion of the equation is being addressed.

The real problem lies with the ground-based SAM network. Pakistan currently relies on the Chinese HQ-2 for strategic air defense purposes. The problem is that there only appears to be one active HQ-2 site near Islamabad, located at 33°32'40.80"N 73°16'04.44"E. There have been claims of a second HQ-2 unit near Karachi, but there is currently no evidence suggesting that this unit is still active, as the site is not visible in overhead imagery. Given the fact that Karachi is not the capital, the equipment could be being held in storage or active reserve for deployment if needed, but for the sake of argument we will proceed with the assumption that only the northern site is active, as it is the only site that can be verified at this time.

Here is an image of the active HQ-2 site near Islamabad:

The next image depicts the maximum range of the HQ-2, 35 kilometers. 35 kilometers is the range of the farthest-reaching HQ-2 variant, I am operating on the assumption that PAF missiles may have been upgraded or replaced over their service lives.

Take note that the mountanous terrain to the east and southeast will affect radar performance and the system's effectiveness will be hampered to some degree in those areas, particularly at low altitudes.

The rest of the Pakistani SAM inventory consists of short-range tactical SAM systems best suited for a point defense or ground unit support role. Clearly, the SAM side of the Pakistani IADS needs to be addressed. Pakistan has shown interest in acquiring advanced Chinese-made SAM systems, including the FT-2000, which is a rather interesting passive homing weapon. Modern Chinese SAM systems should be just as effective as some of their Russian counterparts, as China has been importing some of the best SAM systems in the world from the Russians for years now and has likely taken the opportunity, as they are so often wont to do, to check things out and figure out just what makes them tick. S-300P technology no doubt aided in the development of the very similar HQ-9 strategic SAM system.

Before one sets about redesigning the Pakistani strategic SAM network, one must first consider the goals of the IADS. The goal of the Pakistani IADS should not be to turn Pakistan into a wholly denied parcel of airspace; that would require far too many SAM systems to effectively pull off. Rather, a strategic SAM network should be positioned to protect key infrastructure elements and the government, as well as key military facilities.

In order to defend these key sites, they must be identified. For the sake of this discussion, here is a preliminary list:

-Khusab reactor complex

This list is by no means all inclusive, and is meant simply to illustrate the next point. Additionally, mobile missile facilities have been discounted as they would likely disperse in the event of a large scale conflict.

Alright, primary facilities have been identified. The next step is to identify a potential SAM system for use. The ideal choice, given the nature of their relationship at the present time, would be for Pakistan to procure the 100 kilometer range HQ-9 system from China. As can be seen by the following image, the placement of four HQ-9 units at the aforementioned locations would represent a substantial increase in the Pakistani strategic air defense capability:

Any further strategic facilities or important locations could be defended by additional HQ-9 batteries, but two batteries at each site organized into two regiments, one north and one south, could provide the basis for a robust strategic SAM network.

That leaves the matter of point defense. While Pakistan may choose to procure a European system as they already have experience operating the short-range Crotale and RBS-70 systems, there is another option I would like to present.

Surface-launched AMRAAMs are being used by a few select nations as short/intermediate-range SAM systems. Pakistan has the opportunity here to develop a similar system in cooperation with the Chinese. The SD-10 could potentially form the basis of a very effective point defense system, as well as a system that could be placed covertly along potential threat aircraft ingress routes, particularly in the mountanous regions of the nation.

The SD-10 is an active radar weapon, ostensibly needing no off-board targeting sensors provided the target can be locked on by the seeker head prior to launch. The way to get around that limitation is to provide a passive detection system based on the FT-2000's EW kit. This would allow for hostile target identification to be performed, and a few sensors positioned at the right locations could provide triangulation so as to enable the system to generate accurate target track data. Target altitudes could be generated by measuring the strength of an identified emission, or perhaps by an accurate EO or IR system. Once a track and an altitude have been identified, the parameters for a launch have been established. An SD-10 could be fired and even updated mid-course using continued examination of the track and altitude data, before going active at point-blank range to allow for the maximum amount of suprise (mid-course signals could, of course, be detected by a sensitive RWR kit, but it'd have to know what it was to classify it as hostile).

The passive/active SD-10 system would be a cheap, effective option for short-range and point defense and would also be able to serve as a gap filler in areas where terrain precludes engagement by longer-range HQ-9s positioned in the area to defend their assigned locations. All Pakistan needs to do is take the initiative and embrace this concept, and with the induction of an HQ-9 class system the overall strategic air defense network will become much more effective.

Again, a network such as this is not intended to turn the entire nation into denied airspace. That's just not possible, or even economically feasible at any rate. But with a few key adjustments and acquisitions, Pakistan could greatly increase it's defensive capabilities insofar as intruding aircraft are concerned. A more robust SAM network would also free up more aircraft from point defense or CAP duties, allowing them to be retasked for other roles.


Farooq said...

It would be interesting to add a VERA like system (which Pakistan extensively "evaluated" and will most probably acquire it's clone from China ) and UAVs to this whole analysis. They have recently acquired LUNAs from germany and a bigger project for MALE UAV has been agreed upon with Turkey.

Do you think they can significantly affect the way Air defense is done in Subcontinent since India also seems to be going towards that path.

Sean O'Connor said...

VERA would make things interesting, but apart from an AEW&C role I don't see how UAVs would fit into the equation. They'd work against India's air defenses in a SEAD/DEAD role, but relying upon them as air defense assets yourself is asking a bit too much at this stage I think.

The problem on the subcontinent, if you ask me, is that neither India nor Pakistan seem to have taken air defense all that seriously apart from the airborne component (fighters and AEW&C platforms). Twenty years down the line when you're potentially looking at IAF T-50s vs. PAF J-13s, both sides will wish they'd paid more attention.

Farooq said...

What are the main issues involved in arming UCAVs with A2A munition in your opinion? IAF's air cheif want them for CAS role. So we are going to see armed unmanned assets in future. A2A capbility could also be introduced if not too hard.

When operating in your own area ground sensors can easily take place of airborne sensors and a stealthy lightly armed UCAV can pose alot of problems to aggressors specially when u combine that with ground based missile systems.

That IMHO will be a more comprehensive AD package in a more flexible localized fashion without having to introduce interceptors.

My very amtuerish 2cents :D

Tierce said...


I've just discovered your blog after spending the last month off at Ft. Lewis (I'm considering either ADA or MI, so everything you have here is fascinating from one angle or another).
Anyway, I'm interested to know your analysis of the European SAMP/T system, either generally or specifically in the context of a Pakistani IADS. SAMP/T also seems well suited for the Pakistan Army, perhaps even more than for the strategic air defense role.
Until a few monthes ago, an uncle of mine was GOC 6th Armored Div, under I Corps at Mangla. When I visited him at Kharian in 2005, I asked him about how they planned to deal with Indian CAS and BAI, and he conceded that there really are no corps level air defense assets, just RBS 70, and assorted MANPADS. SAMP/T seems perfect for that role, given that it's highly mobile, and its performance stats look to be comparable to Patriot/HQ-9.
Ultimately, given the constricted geography, a 100km SAM assigned to a Strike Corps in NW Punjab/Southern Kashmir would effectively be an key part of Pakistan's IADS, and all the more useful for denying India a portion of its own airspace.

Anonymous said...

Would the recent purchases of the SPADA 2000 and BAMSE (RBS-23) change your general outlook on the situation?
Also there are a number of other assets that are not commonly known but do exist. ~40 km range with a radar range of ~75km

Anonymous said...

Mr Sean it is interesting to know you have interest in military strategy .

Here are some issues that are not addressed in your insight.

1- Deal for J-10s was signed last year.
2- 250 JF-17s
3- Purchase of Spada-2000.
4- Army has been operating Chinese Ly-60 AAM for a while now.
5- Deals with Ukraine on development of a new SAM.
6- Interest in Chinese Ft-2000.
7- Purchase of U-Darter and local production.
8- Interest in purchase of South African A-Darter.
9- Italian Falco UAVs purchased.
10- Predator Uavs purchases.
11- Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Linthicum Heights, Md., is being awarded a $99,500,000 firm-fixed-price contract. This action provides for government furnished property for the Government of Pakistan for F-16 Block 50/52 new aircraft and modernization program. The procurement of 54 AN/APG-68 (V) 9 Radar Systems will be accomplished under the firm-fixed-price portion of the contract. At this time, $49,750,000 have been obligated. This work will be complete May 2010. Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8615-07-C-6033).
12- WASHINGTON --- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for refurbishment and modification of three excess P-3 aircraft with the E-2C HAWKEYE 2000 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Suite, as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $855million.

The Government of Pakistan has requested a possible sale for refurbishment and modification of three excess P-3 aircraft with the E-2C HAWKEYE 2000 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Suite, spare and repairs parts, simulators, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, system software development and installation, ground/flight testing of new systems and system modifications, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $855 million.
13- PAF
- 12 x F-16C Block 52 + 6 x F-16D Block 52 fighter aircraft [$144m, DEC 2006, Lockheed-Martin]
- 24 x F-16A + 10 x F-16B Block 15 MLU kits [$161.3m , DEC 2006, Lockheed-Martin]
- 54 x AN/APG-68 (V) 9 Radar Systems [$49m, NOV 2006, Northtrop-Grumman ]
- 6 x C-130E transport aircraft [$64m US financed sale, SEP 2004. Lockheed-Martin.]
- 6 x AN/TPS-77 mobile air surveillance radars [$89m US financed sale, OCT 2005. Lockheed-Martin]
- 500 x AIM-120C-5 air-to-air missiles [$269.6m, Raytheon, NOV 2006]
- upgrades for 310 AIM-9M air-to-air missiles to AIM-9M-8/9s [$5.8m US financed sale, DEC 2006. Raytheon]
- 300 x AIM-9M Sidewinder within-visual-range air-to-air missiles [$29.4m US financed sale, OCT 2005. Raytheon]
- 2 x F-16A Falcon fighter aircraft [Excess Defense Articles grant delivered JAN 2006]
-19 x T-37B intermediate jet trainers [Excess Defense Articles grant, 2003?]
6 x L-88 Aerostat surveillance radars ($155m, Lockheed-Martin. Congressional notification in JUL 2002)

115 x M109A Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers ($56m, United Defense Sale. Congressional notification in DEC 2005).

14 x Falcon-Up/STAR upgrades + 14 x F100-PW-220E engine overhauls + ‘de-modification’ of 26 x aircraft ($151m Congressional notification in JUN 2006)

240 x LAU-129/A Launchers; [all Air Weaponry $650m proposed sale. Congressional notification in JUN 2006]
500 x JDAM Guidance Kits: GBU-31/38 Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) kits;
1,600 x Enhanced-GBU-12/24 GBUs;
800 x MK-82 500lbs and MK-84 2,000lbs bombs;
700 x BLU-109 2,000lbs penetrating bombs w/ FMU-143 Fuze.

3,700 x Harris HF manpack and vehicle radios ($160m, NOV 2006)

3 x (refurbished) P-3 Orions w/ Hawkeye 2000 AEW suites ($855m, DEC 2006)
3,200 x TOW-II missiles ($185m, DEC 2006)

Air Force monitors Chinese Spy Plane at Pakistani Air Base
Dated 25/8/2006

The Indian Air Force is monitoring the presence of a Chinese surveillance plane at the Chaklala air base in northern Pakistan, newspaper reports said on Friday. The aircraft reportedly flew in with a group of Chinese aeronautical scientists in July end 2006.

The classification of the spy plane is said to be the Y-8 Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft which is China's effort to built an indigenous AWACS system. The Chinese AWACS, a typically secretive project that Beijing began after its efforts to acquire Phalcon AWACS jets from Israel was blocked by the US in 2000

Y-8 Project is said to provide a light, cheap airborne early warning and detection aircraft that can be produced and deployed in large numbers. Islamabad is expected to sign up to join the project and place orders after the operational demonstrations at Chaklala are over.

AWACS platforms, basically advanced radars mounted on aircraft, provide greater detection and coverage range than ground radars simply by virtue of their altitude, and provide a capability that both India and Pakistan are already in line to acquire.

In June, Pakistan signed up to acquire six Swedish Saab-2000 Erieye AWACS, more than two years after India ordered three Israeli Phalcon jets. But these are both expensive, limiting the numbers that can be acquired by either country.

A point of concern to the IAF is that the Chinese AWACS is near test readiness, which means Islamabad, when it chooses to buy them, will be in a position to deploy it in large numbers far before the Indian homegrown airborne early warning project, under development by DRDO's Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) in Bangalore, actually takes off.

A senior IAF officer said, "Historically, decisions between China and Pakistan happen much faster. That means, they could have a greater density of airborne radar coverage before we do."

Long-range airborne radar coverage will be principal factors in ensuring that no air violations take place on either side.

Copyright © 2006 India Defence. All Rights Reserved.

Pakistan Selects Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod

The U.S. government has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] for 18 Sniper® Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP), a part of the new Advanced Block 52 F-16 aircraft program for Pakistan. Pakistan is the eighth international customer to join the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard flying with Sniper ATP. The contract includes spares and training services. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“This sale culminates a two year combined effort by Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control and Aeronautics businesses to upgrade the precision attack capability of one of our key allies,” said Ken Fuhr, director of Fixed Wing Targeting Programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Sniper continues to demonstrate exceptional performance in meeting the requirements and expectations of the Warfighter.”

With deliveries beginning in 2008, the Pakistan Air Force will benefit from Sniper ATP’s exceptional stability and superior imagery, allowing aircrews to perform intelligence, targeting, surveillance and reconnaissance missions from extended standoff ranges.

The Pakistan Air Force joins the U.K. Ministry of Defence; the Canadian Forces, the Royal Norwegian Air Force; the Polish Air and Air Defense Force; the Royal Air Force of Oman; the Belgium Defence; and other international customers with its selection of the Sniper ATP.

Sniper ATP is currently flying on the U.S. Air Force and multinational F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, A-10s, B-1s and the Harrier GR9. Sniper ATPs have accumulated tens of thousands of flight hours in thousands of sorties in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Sniper incorporates a high-resolution, mid-wave third-generation forward-looking infrared (FLIR), a dual-mode laser permitting eye-safe operation in urban environments, a CCD-TV along with a laser spot tracker and a laser marker. Sniper is fully compatible with the latest J-series munitions and precision-guided weaponry. Its superior detection ranges are vital to pilots, helping keep them out of range of threat air defenses.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The problem is european missiles etc cost money which pakistan doesnt have. If US Aid cuts off again, Paks economy will implode. Its a well known fact within Pakistan that most of the figures being published by the Govt are just for foreign consumption and in real terms, the economy is still in bad shape.

Anonymous said...

I don't think, pakistan needs this much defence procurements. I guess 1971 war hurt them real bad. Musharaaf was crying like a baby in 1971 war(he himself admitted that). American funding is the main source money for pakistanis. Pakistanis better be nice to americans. All these SAMs, radar systems will be more useful for india than pakistan. Indian forces neither wants to sneak in to pakistan territory nor plans to support balochistan's independence.

India with all the radar systems and powerful SAM systems it already got can easily defend its territories. India doesn't even have to use SuMKIs to bomb pakistan. India is not going provoke pakistan-history says it all!!

Anonymous said...

The locations of the SA-4 in Azerbeijan at the sam site analysis do not show up at your Mega SAM Overview.kml.

This locations wil help to get your number even higher up.

Great work!

Sean O'Connor said...

The Azeri SA-4 sites shown in the Tactical SAM site article have been moved to a new folder covering SAM sites in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Technically they're actually Armenian SA-4s anyway.

Arsalan Aslam said...

sallam dear

it is really an informative blog by you

i have been searching for pakistani land based air defence system and found that it is the area in which pakistan is perhaps least capable,,
what do you suggest why is pakistan not going foe some chines SAM systems, the chines versions of russian S-300 or S-400 like the HQ-9 can be a good option
what do you say??

raj47 said...

In order to defend these key sites, they must be identified. For the sake of this discussion, here is a preliminary list:

-Khusab reactor complex

pl tell me why has Hyderabad been chosen as one of the sites?

Anonymous said...

lovely papers and good thought interesting subject