ISLAMABAD — Pakistan showcased its latest defense equipment at its annual Pakistan Day Parade on Wednesday, highlighting ongoing efforts to maintain a credible conventional deterrent against India.
One notable element of the parade including aerial displays, which this year began with an F-16C Block 52 escorted by a pair of newly inducted Chinese J-10C Firebird fighters. Three Firebird fighters from an initial order of 25 are believed to be in Pakistan.
Kaiser Tufail, an analyst who previously flew the F-16 during his military career, thinks the Firebird was a good choice for the Pakistan Air Force.
“The J-10, being in the class of the F-16C Block 52 in terms of range and weapons payload, it was the obvious choice for adding to the numbers of PAF’s [fourth-generation-plus] fighters,” he said.
However, he added, “any acquisition from [the United States] under the current ‘cold’ relationship was neither possible nor feasible.”
He also believes the acquisition was an “appropriate response” to India’s Rafale purchase. Although Pakistan has historically been a committed French customer, the high costs of that country’s hardware encouraged Islamabad to look to Beijing, “an old and trusted friend.”
He also said the J-10C and Rafale are comparable due to the former’s active electronically scanned array radar and PL-15 beyond visual range air-to-air missile.
“While the radar and [beyond visual range] missile capabilities of the Rafale and J-10 are highly classified, it is fair to say that they have broadly similar capabilities,” he noted. “With no possibility of [the Pakistan Air Force] being able to upgrade its [advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles] to the longer-ranged versions, the PL-15 is considered the right antidote to the Rafale’s Meteor.”
The Firebird is also a high-end complement to the more numerous JF-17 jets.
“The J-10 is by no means a substitute to the JF-17, as it is in a different class altogether. With more range and weapons payload, the J-10 forms the ‘high’ end of the high-low mix, with the JF-17 workhorse performing the bulk of ‘routine’ operations. Both types can also be perfectly ‘paired,’ as both share many avionics, data link and [electronic warfare] capabilities,” Tufail explained.
Other new equipment showcased during the parade included the Chinese-supplied SH-15 155mm truck-mounted howitzer and HQ-9P long-range air defense system, as well as the indigenous Shahpar-2 combat drone.
The SH-15 has a maximum reported firing range of about 53 kilometers, making it Pakistan’s longest-range tube artillery system, and helping the country standardize on a single caliber along with its U.S.-supplied M109 and M198 howitzers.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think tank that tracks arms sales, has not listed the HQ-9P in Pakistan’s inventory, and the Asian nation has not officially confirmed its acceptance into the military. SIPRI does, however, list the CH-3.
Raja Khan, who leads drone-maker Integrated Dynamics, previously told Defense News the Burraq was locally developed based on the configuration of a 1970s kit plane designed by Burt Rutan. China helped rig the finished product with missiles, but then copied and exported it as the CH-3.
The Shahpar-2 is a larger and more heavily armed combat UAV based on the same design lineage.
Despite Pakistan’s ability to domestically develop UAVs, the country still purchases Chinese and Turkish drones. None were on display.
The parade was witnessed by foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, who are attending a conference in Islamabad.
Pakistan was commemorating March 23, 1940, when the Muslim leadership in the eastern city of Lahore demanded independence from British rule.
In his speech, Pakistani President Arif Alvi called for making the 57-member organization more effective by forming unity among Muslim countries. He said that Pakistan was a peace-loving country.
“We will never make any compromise on our sovereignty,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Usman Ansari is the Pakistan correspondent for Defense News.