New air defence system

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IN a landmark development, a state-of-the-art Chinese-origin HQ-9/P HIMADS (high to medium air defence system) was inducted into the Pakistan Army Air Defence on Thursday, which will significantly enhance the Comprehensive Layered Integrated Air Defence (CLIAD) shield of aerial frontiers of Pakistan as the system is fully integrated through a well-knit digitized system on its inventory.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who witnessed the commissioning of the system at a ceremony in Karachi, expressed the confidence that the induction of high-tech systems will make Pakistan’s air defence impenetrable in the emerging threat scenario, adding the Pakistan–China strategic partnership and defence collaboration is a factor of stability in the region.

At a time when the country is facing numerous challenges in the realm of defence because of the highly discriminatory attitude of some of the countries on which it depended for military hardware, people of Pakistan are grateful to China for its consistent and valuable support and assistance to help counter threats to the security of the country.

Already, Chinese-made FN-16 MANPADS are playing a crucial role as these can intercept low altitude and ultralow altitude air targets like enemy helicopters, low-flying aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Modern wars are fought with missiles and aircraft but unfortunately Pakistan has not invested much on Pakistan Air Force (PAF) mainly because of financial constraints but our enemy is acquiring lethal weapons from all over the world.

With this in view, investment on a reliable air defence system is worth making and it is a matter of satisfaction that our planners are not oblivious to this requirement.

This assumes greater significance because of the fact that India, which is aspiring to accumulate maximum power and establish its hegemony in the region, apart from other systems, has acquired Russia’s S-400 air defence system, which will alter the strategic stability in the region as it would give India a false sense of security to execute lethal adventures.

A glimpse of this is seen in the latest threat hurled by the Indian Home Minister who was quoted by Indian media as saying his country will carry out surgical strikes against Pakistan.

Indian media and policy makers are also propagating that New Delhi’s acquisition of the S-400 would enable India to control Pakistan’s airspace, thereby claiming an extreme strategic edge over Pakistan.

Under these circumstances, though Pakistan has a declared policy of not indulging in an arms race, Islamabad cannot close its eyes to the emerging but potent threats. It is under compulsion to take counter-measures to rebalance the shift in strategic balance.

Pakistan, therefore, should explore the possibility of entering into joint defence production ventures with China, Turkey and may be Iran to indigenously develop a robust air defence system that keeps into account Indian capabilities.

Experts also point out that given the vulnerability of the air defence systems against drones as witnessed in several recent conflicts in Syria, Libya and Armenia, Pakistan should invest considerably on this technology as it has proved effective in neutralizing various air defence systems.

Azerbaijan also used decoy aircraft to destroy the air defence systems of Armenia as the decoy was used to identify the location of the system and then drones were used to destroy it.

Apart from the possibility of acquiring sophisticated drones from friendly countries, we must also draw a comprehensive plan for indigenous development of this technology on a continuous basis so as to ensure that the drone deterrent remains effective in different scenarios.

Pakistan has the basic know-how and a talented manpower to make desired advancements in the field of defence production provided necessary budgetary allocations are made for research and development and proper linkages are developed between the defence industry and institutions of higher learning.

If our scientists, engineers and technicians can master the world’s most complicated and complex nuclear technology, there is no reason they cannot deliver as far as local development of quality drones is concerned.

The reluctance that the United States has demonstrated to share this technology with Pakistan makes it evident that it is technology of the future and we should make necessary investment in the field.

Induction of HIMADS is a welcome development as it is capable of intercepting multiple air targets including aircraft, cruise missiles and beyond visual range weapons at ranges over 100 kilometres with the single shot kill probability but much more needs to be done in the face of fast changing regional developments that threaten our security and defence.

 

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