ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey pledged this week to increase defense cooperation between the two countries to new levels, but after a string of recent deals, analysts believe further cooperation will be incremental.
Speaking to Turkey’s Daily Sabah, Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi highlighted defense relations such as recent deals for platforms like the T-129 helicopter gunships and Milgem corvettes, which he said would further improve as the countries continue to explore new opportunities.
The existing deals alone are likely to see substantial offsets and technological input for Pakistani industry, and build upon existing supply of defense technology critical for all three branches of Pakistan’s military.
Pakistan’s defense industry generally lags behind other nations, and has struggled to offer much in return bar a deal for the PAC Super Mushak basic training aircraft, further highlighting the importance of the relationship between Ankara and Islamabad.
Asked exactly how that relationship may further improve, Brian Cloughley, and author, analyst, and former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, said there is room to do so. He highlighted training as one area of cooperation, thanks to tensions between Pakistan and the U.S., along with armored personnel carriers and future orders of helicopters.
While Turkish AFV-related technology is already finding its way onto Pakistani APCs and tanks, Pakistan is exploring options to supplement or even replace its M113 type APCs, perhaps with an IFV design, with Turkey’s Kaplan or Tulpar IFV programs potentially of interest.
Turkey’s T625 multirole transport helicopter may also be considered to replace Pakistan’s range of legacy types.
Both countries also have active fifth generation fighter development projects, but analysts believe this level of cooperation is presently a step too far.
Justin Bronk, an analyst with the RUSI think tank, raises concerns given “the lack of any proven domestic capacity in both Pakistan and Turkey to produce a fifth-generation fighter, than with any issues around security or industrial interests.”
“Neither country is in any position to develop such capabilities for the foreseeable future without massive external assistance and technology transfer,” he said
That idea is echoed by author, analyst, and former air force pilot Kaiser Tufail, who nevertheless stresses their respective fifth generation programs “must continue for a long-term goal of manufacture”.
Tufail believes both nations should co-operate on an interim type of jet, with some of the technical characteristics of a full fifth-generation fighter “rather than jumping straight to a full-capability fifth generation fighter.”
Though new to aircraft manufacture, he believes Pakistan has gained a slight edge over its potential partner, having co-produced the JF-17, “essentially a Chinese design based on PAF's specifications”, though there is still “need for collaboration in design and production of any new fighter.” Turkey in comparison, though having license produced F-16s, lacks comparable modern fighter design experience.
Their close relationship makes fighter co-production “logical” though, he said.
Therefore, present co-operation “could well take the shape of a ‘Block-4’ JF-17 developed by Turkey and Pakistan” to be “considered for joint design and co-production”, after which “a stealth fighter would then be a logical next step.”
Usman Ansari is the Pakistan correspondent for Defense News.