PAF’s Eagle-eyed view

Published in Show Daily 2018 - Day 3

The PAF’s air defences systems monitor every movement in its skies, and is showing its capabilities in the Pakistan Hall. (Alan Warnes)

Protecting Pakistan’s airspace, is the main role of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Under Project Vision, which commenced operations 19 years ago, the PAF has done a phenomenal job doing just that.

Pulling together information from a number of multi-service sensors means the PAF has a single recognised air picture (RAP) that provides its air defenders with an eagle-eyed view. As a result it has 24/7 coverage of all its airspace, which can extend hundreds of miles out into the sea and across its borders.

One source told the IDEAS Show Daily, “we have US, European and Chinese short range, medium range and long range radars, that are both air based and ground based. They are coming from vintage and modern systems.” He went on to say, “with all this information fed and merged into our Air Space Management Centre (ASMC) we get a Recognised Air and Maritime Picture (RAMP).”

Nigeria’s Air Force Commander, Air Marshal Sadique Abubaker is given a briefing on the Air Space Management Center at the PAF’s stand on the first day of IDEAS 2018.

The Army and Navy surveillance systems are also plugged into the ASMC, along with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sensor, radar and flight plans, ensuring the air surveillance coverage is robust. One example of its airborne radar input combines aerial pictures of Sweden’s Saab Erieye, French Dassault 20 and Chinese CETC ZDK-03s which are downlinked to the ASMC. It is difficult to know of such an air defence system anywhere else in the world that draws upon such a wide variety of foreign sensors. Clearly they have come up with a complex system. “No, not really,” said another spokesman, “we use our very own indigenous multi-radar tracker, integrated into all of air defence systems. We don’t rely on the tracker of those particular systems.”

At IDEAS, the same source added, “We now have a system that has been perfected over a couple of decades, so it is battle-hardened and time proven. The air threats are very unique too – they come from the long standing threat in the east and the effects of terrorism in the west, all happening along very long borders.”

The PAF has four air defence centres, covering the complete aerial space of Pakistan.

“We stitch together all the sensor’s pictures together to get the complete picture. How far it goes out to sea depends upon where the ship-borne radar is located.”

When it comes to an unidentified flying aircraft, a fighter will be launched from one of the PAF’s Air Defence Alerts (ADAs) situated around Pakistan. They are then directed onto the target by a Ground Control Interceptor (GCI). In the eastern borders there are a lot of unmanned aerial vehicles crossing the border and both sides are looking deep into each other’s territories, to ensure they have an early airborne warning. Then there is the airspace over Afghanistan which is always uncertain because of the ongoing war on terror.

Defending Pakistan’s airspace is obviously a major motivation for everyone in the military to ensure the country is well defended.