Sultan M Hali
AT its independence in 1947, Pakistan did not receive its fair share of defence assets from India while the first Kashmir War on 1947-48 was thrust on Pakistan, which it fought with dilapidated weaponry. Pakistan’s defence planners decided to establish an indigenous defence industry but sanctions by the west blocked it. The Wah Pakistan Ordnance Factory, established in 1951 to produce small arms, ammunition, and explosives was modernized to meet the challenges of modern armed forces. Foundations of Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila were laid for providing facilities for overhaul, rebuild and progressive manufacture of Main Battle Tanks, Armoured Recovery Vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers, guns and production of MBT-2000 Al-Khalid, and Al-Zarrar Tanks.
Additionally it has the capability to rebuild, upgrade and modernize Armoured Vehicles of both Eastern and Western origin. In the early sixties, the influx of US weapon systems for all three services boosted the defence arsenal. However the 1965 Pak-India War resulted in arms embargo on US weapons for both protagonists. India, which was dependent only on Soviet weapons, did not suffer but Pakistan was badly hit. Dismemberment of Pakistan’s eastern wing in 1971 gave it a new resolve to work hard and stand on its own feet. The road to development, self-reliance and indigenisation has enabled Pakistan to develop its own missiles, MBTs, APCs, submarines, ships and aircraft.
Equipped with modern external as well as indigenous weapon systems, Pakistan’s armed forces are fully motivated to meet any challenge to Pakistan’s sovereignty. After the success of its major developments in the defence industry the Defence Export Promotion Organization (DEPO) was created to promote Pakistani defence equipment to the world by inviting major and small players to the IDEAS Exhibition, which is held annually at the Karachi expo centre. Pakistan’s missile program is indigenous and has a wide array of weapon systems in its missile arsenal, which range from the short range Hatf to the medium range Abdali, Ghaznavi and Shaheen and the long range Ghauri and Shaheen 2; Pakistan has successfully tested its indigenous Cruise Missile Babur, capable of launch from surface, air and sub surface platforms.
In May 1998, India carried out its second nuclear tests at Pokhran after the first in 1974, and became highly belligerent. Its sabre-rattling forced Pakistan to come out of the nuclear closet and conduct tests of its own, declaring to the world that it possessed nuclear weapons for its defence and deterrence of war-mongers but it harbours no aggressive designs against any one. To formalize its defence production infrastructure, the Directorate General Munitions Production (DGMP) was created under the Ministry of Defence Production. DGMP has a number of autonomous bodies under it to undertake the onerous task of defence production. They include, National Radio Telecommunication Corporation, Directorate General Defence Purchase, Defence Export Promotion Organization, Heavy Industries Taxila, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Military Vehicles research and Development establishment, Armament Research and Development Establishment, Institute of Optronics and Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works. Air Weapons Complex adds impetus to the state-of-the-art defence production capability.
Pakistan’s defence production industry has come of age, since it is now designing its own MBTs, fighter aircraft, drones, surface and sub surface fighting platforms for land, naval and air warfare weapon systems of both tactical and strategic genre. Aviation City, established at Kamra, is a part of the strategic vision of PAF to develop Industry-Academia linkage, where the Air University Aerospace & Aviation Campus is part of the overall vision. Having significant potential to attract international scholars and trainees who, besides providing intellectual exchange, it would enhance Pakistan’s image through economic and diplomatic gains.
The Campus has the potential to address the emergent new geopolitical realities in the region. It is heartening that the production of the next generation fighter aircraft has made credible. Besides the Mushak MFI-17 turbo-prop and K-8 Jet trainer, PAC Kamra is engaged in building the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft. The Aeronautical Complex has undertaken the rebuild of Mirages and other fighter aircraft for Middle Eastern air forces too. A recent feather in its cap is the salvage of two SAAB 2000 Airborne Early Warning aircraft, which had been badly damaged by terrorist attacks. The Factory managed to rebuild these aircraft as well acquire international certification capacity in accordance with the stringent western standards in record time and at a fraction of the cost, SAAB Scania of Sweden was demanding.
It is noteworthy that Pakistan’s defence industry has launched cutting-edge indigenisation programmes together with strengthening the local industry and harnessing the demands of foreign aviation industry by promoting joint research and production ventures. Pakistan does not believe in restricting its arms production to its own forces but is willing to share its expertise and capability with friendly forces of the region offering complete solutions at affordable costs. The advantage of dealing with Pakistan’s defence production industry is that it attaches no strings nor restricts the level of development but is willing to share future breakthroughs in technology. Its engineers, scientists, technicians and research scholars in the field of defence production are known for their hard work, level of expertise and reliability. They have supported allied forces in every challenge they have faced. The advent of 9/11 unleashed a new ordeal for Pakistan and the region: terrorism. Pakistan coped with it by developing technology, strategy and operational training institutions to meet the challenge head on and is willing to share its experience and developments with allied forces in this field too.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.