INDIAN Prime Minister Nirender Modi, after sustained criticism at home for his adventurous thinking, is trying desperately to secure French Rafale combat aircraft to show to his people that he is doing his best to counter Pakistani superiority for air battle, but has overlooked the fact that Islamabad too alive to the situation and is constantly pursuing to enhance its combat readiness.
Several options are in consideration, including acquiring Chinese highly sophisticated J-20 fighters, and equip JF- Thunder, which it has now with modern missile system. Modi is completely unnerved and has been having almost daily meetings with his senior air force commanders to counter Pakistani superiority after the PAF had shot down two of its aircraft last year. On the other hand, Pakistan is quietly moving to upstage its fighting capabilities.First, the current options for Pakistan is that they are building up the JF-17 force. First, they have customised the JF-17 towards their own requirements.
PAF officers at constantly updating themselves with modern technologies in the Chinese town of Chengdu. This made it far capable than the original design. Secondly, it has encourage its local economy towards participating in this grand program which will further enhance Pakistan’s aeronautics skills towards the country being an exporter of multirole combat fighters. Thanks to Chinese help and direction, Pakistan has jumped 3 fold in aviation knowhow. The Pakistan Air Force or PAF is inducting a large number of JF-17 to replace legacy jets like Mirage and F-7. So this is their main concentration. The F-16 is the principle multirole fighter in the PAF and will continue to do so in the next 15–20 years.
For a medium range platform, the have a couple of “strategic” options on the table. Either they go and buy an off-the shelf jet fighter, most likely from China in the form of the J-10 and higher up, the J-31. The J-10 is a medium weight multirole fighter and will be the most important jet in the PLAAF. It is currently at a slow pace replacing obsolete J-7 while complementing existing and newer J-7G in service as well as flying alongside J-11 and its derivatives. The J-31 is being upgraded while exciting news about its new engine have come alight which would probably power not just the J-10 but the J-31, thus closing a problematic relations to the Russian engines.
I believe once the Chinese WS-10 then it probably be a right time for Pakistan to expand its capability by buying the J-10 or just going for the J-31. If India has gone to the West and closed its relations with Russia, we could see Pakistan opting for the Su-35 but that is a wish as Russian intends to maintain its relations with India. So the likely medium range fighter is on the J-31 with a distance possibility of the J-10. Some would argue why do Pakistan need the J-10 when its JF-17 is capable of delivering similar mission! The J-31 on the other hand is a totally different beast and would certainly push the PAF capabilities to newer levels, basically setting the PAF for a new air warfare doctrine.
This will dramatically escalate India’s problems despite acquiring Rafalel from France, to counter the J-31. As for other options of modernizing PAF into a turning it “master of the Skies’, A number of options are to be probed. Supply of European aircraft, French specially are out of question, atleast for he present because of the multi billion dollar order from India and forceful lobbying from India to keep Pakistan in check. Another option is to look at the Russian purchases.
True India will oppose Russian defene supplies o Pakistan, but Russia is doing big business in China, it has slowed down its business with India and India has started to diversify its weapons to the West. The recent air combat clash has also disappointed the Indian Air Force due to failure of Russian weapon systems, adding more woes to Russian’s image and India’s frustration on quality Russian weapons. But then again, India plans to keep the Russian relations on its hands. Any sale of Russian jet fighters will seriously be lobbied at the highest level of the Russian government.
At the moment, the Pakistanis are focusing on building their industrial base on the JF-17 local assembly and towards local production. The PAF should focus on building the strength of the JF-17 because this jet can deliver many missions. The PAF is considered a defence military force. It is to defend the state of Pakistan. It has an important secondary mission which is offensive but its core is defensive. It is building the JF-17 to replace legacy jets like the Chinese F-7 and French Mirage. Believeably once the Chinese WS-10 is available then its probably be a right time for Pakistan to expand its capability by buying the J-10 or just going for the J-31.