Shahid Raza |
JF-17 Fighter Block-III
One of the most exciting news from the IDEAS 2018 convention is that Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder fighter, developed in cooperation with China is turning into an advance weapons platform for the Pakistan Air Force and its export customers. The Pakistan Air Force revealed at the IDEAS-2018 that the latest variation of the JF-17 Thunder known as the ‘Block-III’ will be rolled out of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra in 2021. This particular variant of the JF-17 aircraft is believed to be a 4.5 generation aircraft equipped with a yet to be declared Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, upgraded software, complete integration of home-grown and imported weapon systems among other key upgrades.
The PAF believes that the Block-III will be a true swing role fighter with excellent capabilities to execute air to air, air to ground and air to sea missions with a full package of highly advanced weapon systems. The PAF also revealed its ongoing negotiations for getting more export orders for the aircraft, including existing customer countries like Azerbaijan which just received its first batch of 5 Super Mushak aircraft from Pakistan and Malaysia.
Light Armored Vehicle Acquisition
During the War on Terror, the Pakistan Army and paramilitary received casualties in ambushes laid by terrorists to target the unarmed, unprotected pickup trucks used to transport soldiers on their patrol duties. To mitigate this, the Pakistan Army decided to find a new Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) to provide better protection, mobility and firepower to the soldiers operating in hostile and dangerous environments.
It appears that the Heavy Industries Taxila has struck a deal with the South Korean automotive giant KIA to locally produce its K-151 LAV under a transfer of technology agreement. The K-151 weighs 5.7 tonnes; the vehicle is powered by a 225hp engine which provides a maximum speed of 130km/ hr and a range of 600km. This vehicle offers excellent protection to the troops from bullets, RPGs and shrapnel. The floor of the vehicle is reinforced to protect the crew in case of a mine blast and the vehicle is capable of running with flat tyres.
Main Battle Tanks Update
The Pakistan Army showcased its upgraded Al-Khalid-1 Main Battle Tank at the IDEAS-2018. It was revealed that the Heavy Industries Taxila is working on developing a 4th generation variant of the Al-Khalid MBT, known as the Al-Khalid-II. The new Main Battle Tank is believed to be equipped with a 1500hp engine, an upgraded armor package, active protection system, upgraded sub systems and a redesigned turret featuring modular amour and a secondary remote controlled weapons station.
The army is also testing the Chinese VT-4 and Ukrainian T-84P Oplot tanks for the ‘Al-Haider Program’. This, a separate development from the Al-Khalid-II MBT and the victorious candidate will be produced at the HIT Taxila to replace the older and obsolete tanks currently in service.
SH-15 Howitzer Tests
Pakistan is among the countries which face a land warfare challenge across the flat plains of Punjab and the deserts of Sindh. Keeping this in view, the Pakistan Army has been actively testing a number of truck-mounted 155mm Howitzers from countries like South Africa, Serbia and China, as well as indigenously developing long range 155mm artillery shells. On the IDEAS-2018, the most advanced Chinese Howitzer, the Norinco SH-15 had an imposing presence and attracted a lot of attention from visitors and Indian media.
The Pakistan Army did not reveal the results of the competitive testing of these Howitzer systems; however, it is understood that the SH-15 is yet to undergo rigorous cold weather tests before a final decision is made. The Pakistan Army boasts an ageing yet potent artillery arsenal, which needs to be upgraded with the latest technologies. The SH-15 is the truck mounted variant of the lightweight Norinco AH-4 Howitzer, which is also considered to be a future prospect for Pakistan Army’s towed 155mm Howitzer acquisition. It is understood that the SH-15 system is being offered to Pakistan with a generous transfer of technology offer.
There was a vast range of domestically developed defense equipment at display in the exhibition, ranging from sniper rifles to simulators, but perhaps the most exciting indigenous product shown for the first time at the IDEAS-2018 exhibition was the Viper Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). This vehicle has been developed to tackle the battle plans drawn by India under the so-called ‘Cold Start Doctrine’.
This vehicle features an unmanned turret armed with a 30mm main cannon, a secondary remotely controlled 7.62mm machine gun and two anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). The vehicle embodies Pakistan’s approach towards the development of indigenous technology as it is based on the tried and tested M-113 class of Armored Personal Carriers. This vehicle if produced in strong numbers will certainly increase the firepower of the armoured corps of the Pakistan Army on both the conventional and the hybrid low-intensity battlefield.
Shahid Raza is the Director of Geopolitical Research at Command Eleven. He is also a Policy Consultant and a writer. He conducts independent research and analysis for Katehon Think Tank. His work focuses on the geopolitical and security dynamics of Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.