A Shahpar UAV is shown at the IDEAS2012 exhibition in November 2012 in Karachi. (Usman Ansari / Staff)
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan today inducted into service two indigenous UAVs, one of which appears to be armed. The military has long sought the ability to strike targets more quickly after identification.
A press release by the military’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) media branch stated Pakistan had inducted its first fleet of “indigenously developed Strategic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), namely Burraq and Shahpar UAV Systems” for the Army and the Air Force.
The ceremony was attended by the outgoing Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani; and retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, director General Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which overseas all aspects of Pakistan’s national deterrent.
Kayani was quoted as saying the UAVs would “substantially enhance” the military’s real time target acquisition capabilities.
According to Mansoor Ahmed from Quaid-e-Azam University’s Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, who specializes in Pakistan’s national deterrent and delivery program, the presence of Kidwai does not mean the UAVs have any non-conventional application.
“The [National Engineering and Scientific Commission ] comes under SPD, so he would be there,” he said.
NESCOM is a civilian run research-and-development organization that has designed a number of defense systems for the Pakistani military, including the Babur cruise and Shaheen ballistic missiles.
While the press release provided no other information, an accompanying photograph showed a model of a canard pusher UAV that appeared to be armed with two under-wing missiles.
Shahpar is a tactical canard pusher UAV that was developed by the Advance Engineering and Research Organisation, which is part of the state-owned Global Industrial & Defence Solutions (GIDS) conglomerate.
It was revealed to the public for the first time during IDEAS2012, Pakistan’s biannual defense exhibition, in November last year.
It was claimed to be an autonomous UAV with an endurance of seven hours and which could relay data in real time out to a range of 250 kilometers.
Observers have said the Burraq appears to be a Pakistani variant or development of the Chinese Rainbow CH-3 UCAV, but little else is known beyond speculation based on the CH-3’s specifications.
Former Pakistan Air Force pilot Kaiser Tufail said additional information will be difficult to obtain for now because sources will be “wary about leaking what is considered confidential stuff.”
Reports that Pakistan was developing an armed UAV named Burraq date back to 2009. Analyst Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said he first became aware of the existence of the Burraq some years ago when it was still in the design stages with NESCOM.
The two may be related, but he believes Burraq is armed and Shahpar unarmed.
“Shahpar can carry about a 50-kilogram payload and has around eight hours endurance. Burraq, based on CH-3 specs, would carry around a 100-kilogram payload and 12 hours endurance,” he said.
The given payload of the CH-3 is a pair of AR-1 missiles, or a pair of FT-5 small diameter bombs.
The ability of Pakistan to field an armed UAV has great benefits when faced with time-sensitive targets, he said.
“It is important in a sense that it greatly cuts the gap from detection to shoot,” he said.
Adding, “Earlier, once you detected something and wanted it taken out you had to pass on the imagery to higher ups, who had to approve and allocate resources like aircraft and by the time the aircraft got there the bad guys were long gone. Now detect, make decision, shoot and go home — all in same loop.”
He does not believe there is any real significance in the systems being named for use with both the Army and the Air Force, however, as “both have been operating their own UAV squadrons for a while now.”
“The Army has been using German EMT Luna X-2000 and the British [Meggitt] Banshee UAVs, while PAF as we know has a lot of faith in the Italian [Selex] Falco,” he added.
The Luna was also ordered by the Pakistan Navy in June 2012.