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Pakistan to spend $12 billion on arms in 2016-2024
September 21, 2017

Pakistan to spend $12 billion on arms in 2016-2024

IHS Jane’s has projected that Pakistan could spend $12 billion U.S. on big-ticket weapon systems in the period of 2016 to 2024. For prospective arms vendors, the market of focus in Pakistan will likely center on a number of major land armament programs, such as main battle tanks (MBT), self-propelled howitzer (SPH), armoured personnel carriers (APC), and light armoured vehicles.

In terms of MBTs, the al-Khalid II is expected to be the leading program (at a projected value of $1 billion U.S.). The Talha tracked APC will continue to be inducted as well (at a value of $1.1 billion U.S.). According to Jane’s, possible “opportunities exist for a self-propelled mortar, an APC and a SPH” at values of $1.5 billion, $1.1 billion and $844 million, respectively.

Jane’s also noted that Pakistan’s economy is projected to continue struggling, with its GDP growth rate anchored to a little over 3.5% over the next five years. Despite that, Pakistan has increased its defence expenditure for the coming year from 2.3% of its GDP to 2.54%.

Comment and Analysis

Although Pakistan’s projected expenditure rate is on the lower side compared to that of other powers in Asia and the Middle East, it is a sizable amount in its own right. Pakistan is evidently looking to reinvest most of that money back into its domestic industry, specifically existing solutions.

The al-Khalid II main battle tank (MBT) has returned to the development pipeline. It is not a new program, but changes in the technology market will likely impact the improvements it will exhibit over the al-Khalid and al-Khalid I MBTs. For example, Pakistan could potentially consider acquiring Ukraine’s recently revealed 1500hp diesel engine, which is derived from the KMDB 6TD-2 currently used on the al-Khalid. Pakistan may also try to procure some of the technology onboard Turkey’s Altay MBT, most notably its electronics and Akkor self-protection suite, which is capable of soft and hard-kill defensive measures.

Regarding the possibility of Pakistan inducting another APC type. In 2015, Pakistan was looking to finalize the purchase of the NORINCO VN-1 8×8 wheeled APC with local licensed production from China. It is likely that Jane’s is referring to this program, though at this stage other companies, such as Paramount Group with its Mbombe 8, may be looking to make an entry.

The possible self-propelled howitzer (SPH) acquisition is interesting. The projected value of the program – at $844 million U.S. – suggests that around 200 machines could potentially be procured. NORINCO’s PLZ-52 or PLZ-05 would be the likely frontrunners of such a requirement, assuming a tracked system is being sought. Competitors could include the Turkish T-155 Firtina, which is derived from the South Korean K9 Thunder, and surplus American M109s (which would add to the Army’s existing force of M109A2/A5s).

In the less likely case that a wheeled SPH is being sought, the Army would be best served to bind such a decision to its selection of a wheeled APC, so as to achieve platform commonality and save in maintenance and logistical costs. In this case, it would basically need a vendor to provide the turret and cannon. It can source its entire set of solutions from China, though the South African industry could potentially offer a competing alternative. In the case of self-propelled mortar, if a wheeled system is being sought, then it would be best to base it on the wheeled APC platform. If a tracked system is on the cards instead, then the best course of action would be to acquire a turret for the Talha APC.

It is important to note that armour and vehicle programs will only take up a portion of the $12 billion U.S. that is expected to be spent. Most of this money has likely been locked to long-term programs, such as the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s JF-17 Thunder and the Pakistan Navy (PN)’s next-generation submarines.

That does not mean that there is a lack of opportunity for prospective defence vendors. For example, with the PAF not being able to procure new-built F-16s on a subsidized basis from the U.S., the JF-17 Block-III may be positioned as a far more critical acquisition. In turn, the PAF may be on the look for qualitatively stronger sub-system offerings that it could pair with the fighter. This could be an opportunity for the likes of Aselsan, Leonardo-Finmeccanica and Denel Dynamics.

Similar prospects could be present in the PN’s submarine program, especially since it is poised to contract the Turkish industry to upgrade its Agosta 90B submarines. It is almost certain that the upgrade will be in the area of electronics, which could potentially make their way onto the PN’s eight forthcoming Chinese origin submarines as well. The wild card in the PN’s case would be surface warships, an area which could result in a number of new vessels if long-term financing support is secured. It is also unclear to what extent Pakistan Army Aviation will figure in this expenditure run, though it does have 15 Bell AH-1Z Viper dedicated attack helicopters in the pipeline.

Although there has been some noise about Pakistan seeking a new fighter type in lieu of new-built F-16s, this idea is largely being pushed by the Pakistani government (via its statements to the effect). The PAF has not signalled such plans, at least in the current term (2016-2024). In other words, the prospect of the Su-35 or any other platform in the short and medium-term is a wild card bet, one dependent on numerous factors, such as Pakistan’s economic prospects and its foreign relations clout. That said, used F-16s will enter the pipeline, and a market for the American defence industry may emerge via the possible upgrades the PAF may implement onto those F-16s.

Besides the JF-17 and used F-16s, the one program of significance that will gradually gain momentum is the PAF’s next generation fighter, a program that the PAF leadership hopes will impart genuine research and development as well as advanced industry (e.g. manufacturing and materials fabrication) growth in Pakistan. Without a tangible design, the prospect of direct commercial engagement is limited, though depending on the PAF’s execution, ‘softer’ procurements in the form of capacity building, consulting and infrastructure development could be on the horizon. Large expenditure will likely be seen after 2020.

Finally, it must be noted that Pakistan’s projected expenditure is not set in stone. The country’s uncertain economic outlook and security climate can have significant impacts on the armed forces’ development goals. The spending potential could very well decline. Of course, one should also keep an eye on the necessary changes Pakistan would need in order to sustainably increase its defence expenditure.

With two major events occurring by 2024, i.e. the possible selection of a new Chief of Army Staff (or an extension of the current) and the 2018 general elections, reflection ought to be given to what is necessary for positive change. Significant direct expenditure is committed towards the counter-insurgency campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A conclusion to the conflict would yield direct peace dividends. If compounded by a competent, forthright and nationally invested political leadership, one that succeeds in implementing strong anti-corruption policies, regulatory and bureaucratic efficiency, and a principled foreign relations strategy, Pakistan’s overall direction will improve substantially. Conversely, failure in these areas will have negative results.

  • Hashim Rasheed

    Why does Pakistan need to buy APCs, SPHs, and light armored vehicles. They are making all these at home at HIT. In my opinion, they should look to develop their own established industry and improve their products rather than spend billions on things that will serve the same purpose.

    • The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but if it wants an SPH or 8×8 wheeled APC, then it needs the actual designs and technology to produce them domestically. In some cases, such as the SPH, we wouldn’t be able to justify the numbers (our requirement would be for 200, tops 300) to justify anything more than local assembly and parts manufacturing.

  • U

    Kindly shed some light on Pak Army’s current APC and SPH inventory and possible future acquisitions. May be separate articles for each, just as you posted for Army’s MBTs.

  • MT

    Does these deal include5- 6bill $cost for those cheeni yuan class sub including assistance to build submarine launched cruise misssile?

  • Sami Shahid

    gunship helicopters , fighter aircrafts and frigates are very important for Pakistan

  • Abdul Rashid

    Good luck with the two closing sentences. I would not put money on it.

  • Quraishi

    12 billion in 8 years is so little when compared to how much a small state such as Qatar spend in a year. Other countries get more in donation then 12 billion in a period of 8 years.
    If it continues this way, Pakistan will soon lose almost all conventional deterrence.
    No matter how much technical advancements we talk or discuss, each mutual effort of all different nations components that forms a deterrence.
    e.g. If now Pakistan was to have budget of just 40 Billion U.S. all the latest advancements in all military branches can be achieved in no more then 5 years.

    I would like to also point out, reading the name of this ‘analysis group’ as i may have mentioned many times earlier, in the 21st century, military only is no longer the only defense component for a nation. In this era and age defense of a nation consists of much broader policy and strategy, (including various different gov functions, ministries, media, alliances, etc.) How often do we now see nonmilitary functions of various governments achieving results that was once only achievable by militaries. So should the Quwa think tank also not keep a close eye and do analysis on defense related aspects of nations as well, other then direct military.

    • I agree with you in principle, but branching into areas of policy, governing and society is akin to asking me to construct a Wall Street Journal or IHS Jane’s. That isn’t something I can do at this time.

      • Salman Khan

        True. If one would delve into the Pakistani political demography, we’d have to sit and have some Panadol. The country is so divided, and this division is fueled by the economic frustration. Frustration is fueling everything in Pakistan. Let’s just hope and pray that Allah blesses us with economic prosperity, and that He may fix our despair situation. May Allah bless us with unity, honesty and faith.

      • Quraishi

        Okay, you can actually have any name, regardless of the purpose, but I got your point.
        Quwa more exactly means ‘power’ then ‘force’
        I will try and focus on military more on my posts here, but even when i do try, its just impossible for me to come to a comprehensive picture without taking notice of directly affecting external factors.
        Either ways good site,

        • You and others are welcome to discuss issues from whatever angle you desire, I was just referring to the publishing side.

  • Shershahsuri

    well 12 billion dollar is too tentative. It depends on the economic scenario in the coming 8 years. if economy improves then defense budget can be increased. It also depends upon the urgent needs of the military. However Pakistan has realized that economic discipline and curb of corruption is more urgent today than ever. So in my opinion I see an increase in the proposed 12 Billoin USD.

  • umesh2063

    Thats nothing as compared to $250 bn from India to modernise its armed forces. Pak economy is already in tatter whereas the economy of India is booming and is one of the fastest growing economy in the world.

  • umesh2063

    Actually, Pak will get that much amount from donation from US and other countries. See US has already cleared funding of $900mn to Pak. So every year Pakistan is getting billions of dollars of Aid from other countries, so they can afford $12 bn to use in its armed forces

    • Quraishi

      Yes but that’s given for killing people and often Pakistanis, if the gov stop killing people the aid will stop, but then again those people will become productive and may contribute to the national income.
      Things would have been so much different had Pakistan joined the gcc coalition for Yemen.
      Then Pakistan would have been spoiled as Egypt is being spoiled now.

  • MT

    Don’t assume too much. Babur is gifted by china which they made it from ripped version of ukrainean KH missile & tomahawk gifted by pak for rev engg.
    Such is industrial capabilities of pakistan that it still imports majority subsystem of babur.
    Pak doesn’t hv simple powerful solid fuel booster to eject babur missile from water. You guys have no cannister technology.
    Pak is illegally importing most babur components from china including its turbofan/turbojet engine
    On the contrary nirbhay is completely made in india with indian turbofan engine & there are 3 versions of nirbhay for land, air, submarine from same base version unlike pakistan where babur is used for land; denel dynamic developed raad is used for alcm & nothing is clear about submarine version.

  • MT

    1Su35 cost about 90mill $ which is just flyway cost. Total maintenance ll come about 200mill $ /unit plane in 10yr cycle.
    Let’s see if pak ll borrow/ buy debt to add such capabilities

  • RIZWAN CHOHAN

    Hi Bilal, I am an avid reader of your write-ups for past 4 months but this particular article forced me create an account on disqus. this forum is excellent and now I will participate here.

    I don’t understant where re we going….on one hand our arch enemy INDIA is making procurement worth around 12-15 billion dollars per year ( somewhere I read their defence budget is $50 billion and 1/3rd of that goes in procurement)……& here our corrupt politicos have left us with just 12 billion in 8-9 yrs. this will lead to detoriation in our conventional posture.
    the threats are also not limited to one front like the older days. now we have afganistan/iran border and gwadar(CPEC) to protect. by all sources it is almost confirmed that India will spend atleat 100 billion dollars on new acquisitions by 2027 focussing mainly on next generation capabilities. to counter this we must spend somewhere in range of 30-40 billion.
    we re mainly lagging far behind in naval capability where fleet ratio is 1:5.

    will you throw some light on how a 12 billion expenditure over 8-9 yrs period satisfy our needs no matter how judicious it is?

    • Our vital national interests aren’t taken seriously at the leadership level. It’s really as simple as that. If your leadership is not up to scratch or negligent on important matters such as pursuing the country’s vital interests (which depend on a strong economic engine to back defence to enable foreign relations), then the whole stack begins to corrode. One way or another, you rectify the leadership and work on the things you need to meet your interests, things begin to turn out for the better. It’s an old and tired story (Pakistan’s leadership), but at this stage, the most we can do is repeat it to the point where this fact is ingrained, and in turn, never forgotten. Identifying the problem is the step towards understanding it, understanding is the step towards resolving it.

      • Abdul Rashid

        I could keep on up-voting all day any/all comments that take Pakistan’s political “leadership” to task.

        • No matter what, it all starts from generating and exchanging ideas. To what extent ideas get adopted and whether they manifest in physical change is a different story, but we should do what we are capable of, even if it only adds a millimeter in terms of progress. Every millimeter counts.

    • Quraishi

      This is the point I always keep on making from a different angle.
      If a country is spending in procurement 10 billion with 100% efficiency and another country is spending 30 billion with only 50% efficiency.
      They will still be 50% more effective.
      Nations against nations it’s an absolute number game, last time I posted on this issue I got replies on how Pakistan is ahead relative.
      But the fact in real is that nation vs nation war is not fought on distribution of military or weapons per capita but rather as a whole

      • There are two aspects to consider. If you are looking at this from the perspective of forcibly pushing your interests in other places, then you will need efficiency and depth (i.e. as much money as possible).

        But when you are looking at it from the purview of defending yourself from someone else trying to force themselves upon you, then there is a threshold you need to reach in order to make direct action untenable.

        Pakistan has achieved that defensive threshold (vis-à-vis India), so a conventional onslaught isn’t something we need to be worried about. Our concern is a little greater in that it stems from our inability to defend our vital interests from *all* potential threats.

        We *shouldn’t* buckle to the demands or preferences of the U.S. or Russia or China, but we do for one reason or another, and it stems from our corroded and brittle state. When we fall to these big powers, we suffer in all respects.

        At the end of the day, there genuinely isn’t much Pakistan can do if its leadership is unwilling and unable to do it. We can blame them for reflecting the people (or vice versa) as much as we want, I’ve been hearing that complaint for years. It still doesn’t change the fact that an inept leadership yields poor results (assuming you’re lucky enough to get results).

        • Quraishi

          Common, how often it is that the military empowers the leadership into power.
          I get ur point well. But as per the trends now, more and more countries r going to offensive doctrines, not only to undermine the other country but also to achieve their national interests. Influenceable military pressure is now becoming more and more a part of national foreign policy. Why should pakistan only seek to defensive strategy. And after all the defensive stance isnt really working, the country is a fireball, other nations hit pakistan at will. One or two attacks r foiled and it becomes a marketing gimmick. This is no national defense but rather a joke with emotional people, we should learn national defense from Israel, where for their human life they can wipe out countries. For pakistan oh well, what a shame even to mention, just a phone call and…..

          • Regarding Pakistan’s weak leadership …

            The military controls foreign relations and national security, sure, but the political leadership has a responsibility as well.

            At the end of the day, they are taking votes from the public, do they not have the minimum decency to avoid compromising with the military?

            Specifically; shouldn’t the political parties reject the status-quo? Shouldn’t the political parties avoid getting into deals and ‘arrangements’ with the Army? Shouldn’t the political parties – instead of wasting taxpayer money on ineffective legislation and governing – be spending day and night calling out the Army for whatever ills it is causing?

            It takes two to tango, at the end of the day. I don’t like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, not by a mile, but at least he understood what it took to try and instigate systemic change of leadership in Pakistan. He fought, he won, fought again, and then lost. But politicians, i.e. *representatives* of the people, need to put sincerity to action, and be among those who are going to get persecuted for standing up to the military.

            In this scenario, you end up with two kinds of political leaders: the competent but corrupt (or foolish) such as ZAB, and the competent but strongly principled for good. Nothing is infinite in this world, so however screwed up Pakistani society may be as a whole, if we apply the above procedure (of politicians not taking it from the army), we’ll get a good result, eventually.

            You fix the leadership, the rest will align, I assure you.

          • Quraishi

            well y should one not expect the best, if no one expects better we dont deserve better.
            p.s. Well one should pursue efficiency in everything regardless, why waste any resource. I understand where ur coming from, but if u may give it a thought, in this age the line between offensive and defensive strategy is very blurry and rapidly diminishing.

      • jigsaww

        That’s because you (and anyone else who is propounding for it) has not understood it through (and i wouldn’t call is an analysis since it is missing at all). You kids don’t understand what threat assessments mean and what Pakistan’s requirements are at tactical and strategic level, which is why you’re mostly confused with how much should Pakistan spend and on what exactly. Pakistan’s primary war strategy is defence/counter-offence, but never offence. And that’s where costs change dramatically (feel free to educate yourself on an offending vs. defending/counter-offensive strategy vis a vis costs). You do not need to match 100% for 100% in a tit for tat fashion. It’s you who is trying to do that (and it’s apparent from your comment) seeing things from someone else’s perspective and trying to match penny for penny, Pakistan isn’t. And the fact that Pakistan army has successfully kept the enemies at bay despite being engaged in a decade and half long war, speaks of its successful strategy in extremely limited resources. There is a reason Pakistan’s army war on terror ops are recorded, analysed, then taught in US defence schools. Big money isn’t everything.

        Your example is redundant since Pakistan has its own specific needs that are assessed thoroughly and sourced differently. Neither does the military has time to waste on these discussions nor does it call for spendings penny for penny. We have our own specific requirements and multitude of threats, so the budget will never be seen focused on only eastern front or one threat from here on.

        If you can change your perspective from matching money-for-money to matching capability-for-capability/anti-capability (provided the threat is assessed as such), you wouldn’t need to spend your pate thinking so much on it.

        • Quraishi

          Or maybe its just that ur only capable of choosing from what others say, not having the capacity to think for urself.
          I was not really doing an analysis, nor anyone call whose not qualified in the respected area, so if u think a technician or a mechanic like u should be doing a defense analysis u think very wrong it wont have any weight and value to it.
          U look at things to narrowly as they have been read out to u, in real world offense or defense both are extension of national policy. When a country has lesser capabilities, it directly has less power at everything negotiations, defense, policy making etc..
          U talk here thinking urself to be so smart when u say such and such should be done militarily, when someone suggest a policy change, ur like oh my how can that be, that wasnt dictated to us. y r things is fixed in ur world.
          Who said to spend exactly the same amount, seems like now u agree with my first post surprisingly, when i questioned the matching increment of 11%, but since it was done by people u take orders from, that was out of the question, now u come and tell us u dont need to match 1 to 1, then u were like if for me the defense budget should be directly increased to 11billion or so, now ur talking opposite :S
          U just dont know what i have been saying lol, or maybe u do understand, but u dont have a recorded answer to choose from and paste here.
          hell ya pakistan army has kept successfully kept enemies at bay lol
          go read the definition of an enemy first, enemies have shredded the nation and ur like pak army has kept them at bay, east pakistan was lost, siachen was lost, kargil was a disaster, and each day respect is lost amongst many other things, and ur like pak army has kept enemy at bay, where do u get ur info from, can u not think for urself, is this what u call suitable deterrence, that never works. Its only good to bomb inland, like a husband who beats his wife, but is a chicken outside home.
          All evidence is so clear of indians terror network in Pakistan, what has pakistan or its army for that matter done, does it have the capacity to go bomb the shit out of indian terrorists in india. U only understand what makes u feel good, come in terms with realities, kept enemy at bay haha,
          If theres a local terrorist he’s dragged in the streets, and when its an indian spy, hes treated like a ‘sir’ . Now these r victories by ur standards but definitely not by mine or the majority or respected pakistanis.
          son dont teach us about keeping enemies at bay, and u feel Pakistan army is strong enough hell ya, how it u be strong when u know so well whose killing ur people, yet u go and ask them for friendship like an underdog, sorry but ur deterrence standard is garbage. Pakistan and its people deserve more respect. Respectful people have equal standards, for rewarding and punishing people.

          This is not the reason that pak army ops r studied by the US defense school, the reason is that they r so smart the study most conflicts anyways, and the war in pakistan was a new of its kind, all militaries will sure be interested, doesnt make pakistan army any smarter,
          pakistan army defense schools will be smart if they will be able to get and study the recored of the wars USA has fought ww1, ww2, vietnam etc..
          giving ur knowledge to others is not smart at all trust me especially in defense matters. what has pak army or defense schools able to get out of US army’s learnt lessons ?
          No one said big money is everything. u just perceive things urself and start replying to it.

          Literally all the Pak military high command interviews posted, they all say there is lack of finance, and they sure say it in a way that we cannot achieve all we want coz of lack of finance, and here u come with ur prefixed and recorded lines.
          Ur not the military how do u know what they have time for, history has shown Pak military has times for lots and lots such things and more, even governing the country.

          And y should it always be pakistan matching, what thinking is this, y can pakistan not be leading :s

      • Syed

        The more I read your comments the more I think of Trojan Horse…..m not talking about the virus either

    • nineVolt

      Here’s my take on your comment. I think from a naval force perspective Pakistan is not going to invest much because Gawadar is already going to see Chinese naval vessels presence. However, that doesn’t mean that Pakistan needs to be totally dependent on China, a mid size defending naval forces is all that Pakistan needs. Land and air warfare is something that Pakistan needs to invest in more into because of India on one side and Afghanistan on the other. For instance, I would like to see Pakistan work on its anti ballistic missile program.

      In order to propel forward Pakistan needs to have strong, robust economy. CPEC has brought that initiative into Pakistan but what I feel is that the backward, negative and corrupt culture of Pakistan is what causes the suffering. We need to learn from our mistakes and hold people accountable and punish, and define a foreign policy that details out who is Pakistan’s transaction partner and who is strategic partner.

  • bla bla

    @jigsaww
    Something on defence budget

    • jigsaww

      Hi, don’t bother with the numbers too much.
      The focus is/should be on getting capabilities in place.
      That’s what the military sees it as.

      Whatever the number, by 2024, Pakistan is looking to replace 200 old jets, introduce next gen fighter platform alongside JF-17 block 3, induct new frigates/corvettes with medium to Long range sams in naval as well as land theatre, CPEC protection assets, complete its sea leg deterrence capability, and putting in place new capabilities to pierce thru Hindustan’s defence shields (and those defence shields may never get in place but Pakistan’s response will surely be, since now it has been provoked). Less strategic acquisitions will go on as well.

      It may be 12 billion. It may swell to 20 billion. That responsibility lies on the corrupt leadership to provide the budgets and it will.

  • Quraishi

    And then Russia does the same as USA does.

  • Quraishi

    Dear Mr. Bilal Khan,
    If would be nice to see an article on Pakistan command structure, it’s analysis and how does it compare to other armies. We sure wanna know on that and will have much to discuss.
    Two major things that bothers me r:
    Y does chairman joint chief of staff committee not have operational command, as it should be.
    Y does the chairman joint chief of staff always from the army. Like will it not discourage amazing young talened officers looking to join the Air Force and navy to join their second choice for a possible future career as the chairman.

  • Abdul Rashid

    Uh-oh, is this imminent Thread Termination?

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