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Pakistan kicks-off major air exercise
August 20, 2017

Pakistan kicks-off major air exercise

Unperturbed by a rise in tensions along the Line of Control, Pakistan has initiated High Mark 2016, a major air exercise aimed at drawing out and examining the full breadth of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s tactical capabilities. As the PAF’s flagship exercise, High Mark is held once in every five years.

Senior armed officials had informed Dawn that although the military was exercising “extreme vigilance” in regards to the situation in Kashmir, it has opted to continue with High Mark. Civilian flights to and from the Northern Areas were cancelled and portions of the M1 and M2 motorways had been cordoned off to enable the PAF to flexibly operate.

Through the summer, the PAF had gone through a series of major air exercises at home and overseas. In May, it had held Tempest II in order to cement newly acquired combat capabilities. In June, the No. 11 F-16 Block-15 Mid-Life Update (MLU) unit was deployed to Turkey to participate in Anatolian Eagle. In August, an F-16C and five F-16D Block-52+ from No. 5 took part in Red Flag in the U.S.

High Mark has traditionally been a wide-scale exercise involving systems from most, if not all, units in the PAF. Two sides are formed – Blue Force and Red Land – to simulate wartime conditions between two rival states. In light of current geopolitical realities, this may not be the case for High Mark 2016.

Reportedly recent photos have shown Mirage 5s, F-7PGs, K-8s operating along one of the motorways. While it could be assumed, it has not yet been confirmed whether other PAF assets, such as airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C), air defence systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles are also taking part in High Mark 2016.

That said, the fact that the PAF operates a diverse range of Chinese and Western origin equipment – right down to different AEW&C (Erieye and Karakoram Eagle), tactical data-link protocols (Link 16 and Link 17), and multi-role fighter aircraft (F-16 and JF-17) – positions it to simulate a scenario involving two distinct sides (at least in terms of equipment). This would be the first High Mark exercise where the Karakoram Eagle and Erieye could (though not necessarily) be pitted against one another.

The armament dynamics of the region, especially with India slated to finally ink a long-awaited fighter purchase from France’s Dassault, may push the PAF to alter its traditional approach with High Mark. In earlier iterations of High Mark, Blue Force would be a qualitatively superior but numerically inferior force in comparison to Red Land.

In light of current realities, the PAF may benefit more by having Blue Force be a holistically disadvantaged side in terms of both quantity and quality in comparison to Red Land. While the disadvantaged side, Blue Force could help the PAF identify strategically objectives, and in turn, attainable methods of action to achieve those objectives.

  • SP

    Recent events have exposed how ill equipped PAF is against SU-30 and Rafeal due to join IAF in a few years both in quality and quantity along with PAK FA in the pipeline.

    JF-17 has helped PAF by maintaining numbers and replacing obsoletw aircrafts but PAF still lacks a high tech aircraft with a decent ability to strike deep inside Indian in retaliation for any Indian adventurism.

    PAF needs to stop window shopping and buying second hand aircrafts that have seen their days and to place an order for an aircraft that will be a real deterent to any Indian adventurism and make Indian think twice before it even thinks about coming near the Pakistan border.

    An order placed even today will take a few years for the aircraft to join PAF and a further few years before PAF can extract the maximum of the new weapon. This takes us towards end of 2020s before we have any potent aircraft to counter India, otherwise India will not only have much better aircrafts but have them in much larger quantity which no amount of PAF pilot skills can overcome and the edge that PAF had in the past has not only disappeared but now PAF is falling further behind with each successive year.

    We cannot expect the Indians to remain incompetent forever and need to get our act together soon.

    • Sami Shahid

      Do you know Indians have constructed runways along the border with Pakistan ? This is the same ! Nothing is exposed brother and if the government provides more budget than the PAF can also construct its own runways along the border with India….and you will notice one more thing that PAF is using just F-7’s and Mirage 5’s on motorway…you know why ? Because PAF is using these aircrafts as interceptors not fighters because today fighting aircrafts are only F-16’s and JF-17’s.

      • SP

        Lahore to Sialkot Motorway can make a very good and convenient runway in a few years time. No point wasting money on runways better to invest in improving aircrafts and retiring old aircrafts. Resources are always limited and we have too many other needs as well so PAF needs to prioritise. I can see Pakistan making good progress economically and militarily in the next decade if there is political stability.

        • Sami Shahid

          hmmm…you are right ! PAF should look for a substitute of F-16 such as SAAB Gripen or Chengdu J-10 and should also construct an airbase in Gilgit-Baltistan.

    • Shahjee

      Well PAF is modernizing it self as per our defense-offence strategy and given a chance they will surly eat up the MKI’s and other junk that IAF has. Regardless of the technical specs, Till now the SU 30 is not battle proven like the F16, and we surly are one of the finest operators of the falcon, so you cannot compare what will happen one to one.

      For deep penetration you don’t need long range bombers, That is what the cruise missiles are for. Cheap and super effective. JF17 will evolve into a better fighter as the time progresses its just block II right now. I haven’t seen any aircraft other than the viper which can carry so much verity of weapons like the thunder can carry. JF17 is a true multirole in every sense. Its just new and its electronic suit will get better with time.

      • SP

        I agree that for deep penetration strike missiles can be used but missiles aren,t always the solution and should not be the only option available.

        We have an airforce that has not become redundant due to missiles and we should equip it with the tools to do the tasks that we expect from it. JF-17 has done much to help Pakistan and buy the airforce much time but the gaps in the defence need to be removed and it was always intended that Pakistan would acquire another higher tech aircraft to complement the JF-17. The need for this aircraft is becoming pressing and PAF is already working on it but its needs more urgency.

        Being proud is all well and good but no sensible or professional person would underestimate his enemy. In wars not everything works out as planned and there are many variables and planning needs to allow for flexibility and margin.

  • Sami Shahid

    PAF should construct at least one runway along the border with India.

  • Mohsin E.
  • nob hamid gul

    Yeah.such Large number of jf17 as you mentioned will match any Indian jets. The airforce is all about maintenace of aircrafts. So Paf should have an aircraft that is produced in Pakistan.
    Such capability will give edge to Paf over iaf.

  • Mohsin E.

    Thanks, I took that tejas vs jf-17 analysis down because not enough official data is present at the moment to make any hard conclusions, specifically STR/ITR stats for both aircraft at variable altitudes.

    Anyways, I don’t agree that China has “used” pakistan as a knight to check India. China and the US both provided Pakistan the resources required to sustain its confrontational stand against India. Because neither want India to dominate the subcontinent, as India may become too powerful to manage. That doesn’t mean that Pakistan has been pushed into this confrontation by them. India took a confrontational stance since Day 1 of independence, despite the wishes of Jinnah who wanted amenable relations. You can’t blame China or the US for that…

    • GhalibKabir

      Good Morning, it is such a nice conversation with you & so many knowledgeable folks like you here and I am learning in the process.

      please do pardon the rather long reply.

      China-Pak: Mohsin, to me, it is so clear. look at the global political theater as a chessboard, will key players not use their ability/friends ability to anticipate and check a potential rival? This is neither bad nor derogatory. That is they have been doing all the time and that is they will do in the future. The Chinese saw an opening post 1962 and used it to the hilt ensuring a ‘managed distrust’ between India-Pak (not that we need that much outside help, but the PRC has exploited a soft spot and is leveraging it to the max to India’s chagrin)

      Managing India: I see a bias (completely get why pakistanis may see things a certain way) here. What is meant by ‘manage’? it seems an inherent assumption is being made that India’s intentions are bad. But, how different is India’s behavior from other regional biggies like China? China has behaved far worse even with the Russians and has been habitually bad behaved with the Vietnamese and other SE Asian neighbors. In relative terms, India has neither been territorially ambitious nor as boorish. Yes, we have had our bad behavior towards Nepal, SL, Bangladesh etc at times. India should be better is a point is I agree on, but why hold India to a different standard?

      US: Again geopolitical context matters. Our first PM Nehru was bungler par excellence on the foreign policy front. He mishandled US (esp. Dulles and Nixon) needlessly in the 1960s whereas Ayub & Co scored a tactical master strike by treating them well. The 1971 USSR-India treaty and 1974 test ensured US remained cold to India till 1999. Pak had a more consistent story (thanks to the deep state) till recently. As you can see Clinton onwards there has been a sea change.

      Cyril Almeida: Mohsin, let us move with your point as the basis, even then just as a broken clock is correct twice so is Cyril on certain occasions. If what X says matches the theory Y logically we agree else we don’t, simples. Cyril is actually quite right here. the deep state in Pak is so paranoid now, it fails to see India moved on from Partition in 1953 and closed the chapter in 1999 with ABV visiting Minar-e-Pak. That is the fact, the establishment has moved on.

      PS: Such a pity, when I was Amritsar in April, I really wanted to visit my Grand Uncles old home in Lahore and have halva puri and also visit Karachi from where another relative fled in July 1947.

      • Mohsin E.

        I disagree because it was India that picked the fight with China, not the other way around. The Aksai Chin and Tibet issues (both of which fall within China’s influence historically) were forced by India. India miscalculated, and it has been paying for it ever since. By “manage” India, I was referring to this (not the ‘standard’ you’re referring to.) China began to “manage” its power-potential with India in the region in a confrontational way, and this is why its relations with Pakistan flourished. As for the US, things changed once the nuclear issue began. I doubt any administration in Pakistan could’ve fared better.

        And Cyril, he doesn’t have a ‘theory.’ All he has are childish views, that can’t be tested, so it’s not even a hypothesis, let alone a ‘theory.’ And the Indian state is much more ‘paranoid’ then the Pakistani state right now. We’re actually being the mature ones, for once. Modi’s domestic agendas are in free-fall so he wants to divert attention. While Indian media, instead of focusing on the plight of the people of Kashmir, wants to focus on Pakistan. Pakistan just wants to deal with its own internal issues right now, of which there are many.

        p.s. You’re most welcome to visit Lahore and Karachi. Just ask the locals which restaurants to avoid, a lot of food-poisoning horror stories these days lol.

        • GhalibKabir

          Mohsin, good morning. Now, broadly what you have written on India china is ok at a school text book level (I don’t mean in a disrespectful way), at adult level, there are important details to consider. I have always maintained that India has its fair share of tactical mistakes, let me briefly highlight where I think India bungled or Nehru bungled. Your narrative while pointing the effect I.e hostile Indo chinese relations is right, needs to consider the following

          History: 1841-1842 is the start point. Sikh and Qing empires broadly agree on current LAC (may be 30-50 km more towards Tibet) as a loose marker.

          1865-1872: the newly formed colonial geological survey marks borders 50-60 Km inside ‘perceived’ Tibetan territory. Rebukes follow internally

          1907-1914: Treaties with Tibet amidst Chinese objections establish the McMahon line 4060 km long with additions made to unclaimed territory NEFA in 1937 by Colonial Indian Govt.

          1955-1958: China constructs highway on what is technical India territory as per accords with Tibet. Nehru takes a ‘principled’ stance assuming his nonviolent defeat of UK will make China respect him—-> TACTICAL BLUNDER 1

          1959-1962: Nehru thinks he is claiming back his territory ( not incorrect thinking). But Zhou en Lai and Mao see it otherwise and planning correctly, hit India for both border issue and as shot across the bow of the USSR ( Kosygin had annoyed Beijing by talking about himalayan friendship with India)

          TACTICAL BLUNDER 2: Misreading of the Chinese leadership by Nehru ( he should have talked/negotiated) paralleled by non buildup of military along with nepotism at top levels of army air force screwing war time leadership…

          EFFECT: India loses more territory than it needed to ( we would have still lost badly but not 37000 sq km but may be half of that) a bad loss becomes humiliating loss. The bungle kills Nehru in 1964.

          So Mohsin, China initiated trouble by doing a land grab fait accompli by brushing aside an agreement it saw as inherently unfair. But Nehru misread the mood in Beijing and instead did not negotiate. The effect lives on today. India suffered disproportionate consequences of two tactical goof ups.

          On modi let me respond separately. It is not as black and white as you have written.

          • Mohsin E.

            Your evidence contradicts your conclusion. You claim “China initiated trouble by doing a land grab.” But the history you’ve cited shows that land was always contested by China and it saw those agreements as unfair in the first place. The new Indian government wasn’t even part of those historical agreements in the first place, it was the British colonial government that drew those lines. And instead of rejecting those unfair demarcations, the newly independent India (which itself had thrown out the colonists) now hypocritically wanted to keep the territory those colonialists had tried to deprive China. Do you see the contradiction and hypocrisy here? At one end, Nehru was saying “China will respect me for throwing out the British”. On the other hand he was saying “Now I will continue to screw with China the way the British did.”… And still you’re claiming that China initiated trouble?! lolz. Dude… come on.

            The whole thing not a “tactical error,” it was a strategic blunder.

          • GhalibKabir

            Again, I do not dispute Nehru’s(India’s) errors. But your opinion is like attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. India was not malicious, it had what was the best available legal agreement demarcating its border. China could have told India it was constructing a highway to Xinjiang in 1955 because it saw Aksai Chin as Chinese. Then if India had insisted on ‘forward policy’, 1962 would have been well deserved. Nehru was foolish to not take into account what was going in Tibet etc and offer talks at the time of the Panchsheel agreement of 1954 to check what was China’s stance and then negotiate a border agreement. This ‘China will respect me’ silliness of his dates to 1958-59. The land grab was fait accompli by then. Nehru’s stupidity gave the China the excuse to make its fait accompli a permanent reality. In fact China altered claim lines thrice between 1959 and 1962.

            China deserves equal condemnation for bad faith behavior/not offering a chance for dialogue before constructing on disputed territory. needless to say Nehru paid the price for his blunders and India aaj tak bokat raha hai.

            PS: Anyway I have a basic issue with Tibet being Chinese. to me, history has ample proof the grip was more tenuous than Chinese claims and getting annual tributes does not make Tibet any more Chinese than say Burma or Thailand. all said and done ‘jiska laati uska bhains’ has worked for China, however unedifying it may be.

          • Mohsin E.

            I don’t agree that China is “equally” to blame for reasons I mentioned, which I think out-weigh your counters. But in any case, I won’t bother pressing any further. Good talk though.

          • GhalibKabir

            same here. I guess that is why border talks are ongoing precisely because of those perception differences. a pity these things happen in the 21st century. I enjoyed discussing with you. if you ever want plan to visit Delhi let me know, happy to help/host/show around. Have a good weekend Mohsin and I look forward to reading your thoughtful opinions on other topics in the future.

            PS: Bilal, thanks once more for setting up this site. Discussions like this are critical as they serve as a reminder the radcliffe line is just that, a line. ordinary people on both sides tend to be overwhelmingly nice to each other. I walk away with that perception reinforced today.

          • Mohsin E.

            Will do dude, looking forward to read your thoughts on this site as well. See u around.

          • Abdul Rashid

            Hi Ghalib, you have been added to the handful of Quwa “Trusted User” list. This means your comments will be automatically and immediately posted without awaiting moderation. We just have a few simple comments rule (you have not broken any):

            1) English language.
            2) Professional and constructive.
            3) No personal insults or provocation.
            4) On topic

          • GhalibKabir

            Thanks. I saw on other quwa threads as well, there is very little tolerance for nonsense here and that is very much useful given the ‘jazbaati’ types that populate the subcontinent. I have switched off the TV news channels as whether it is Geo TV or NDTV, the jingoism and lack of civil discourse is sickening.

            Don’t want to sound preachy, but may be one of these days I might request Bilal/others to allow me to write a ‘Critical Thinking 101’ article for all ‘jazbaatis’.

            India-Pak Govts may or may not have ‘dushmani’…but watching this bickering from the age of 12 has long convinced me that there are definitely many ‘akkal ka dushman’ living in the subcontinent. that enemy is the worst kind of enemy for sure.
            Have a good week all !

  • GhalibKabir

    I learned quite a bit friend. Thanks. I am no expert and so please do bear with a tyro’s opinion. I will start with what you wrote

    1. EL/M-2052 AESA: The US blocked the sale till 2012, as I understand owing to the fact it was wanting to sell the F-16IN or F-18 to India as part of the MMRCA deal (with APG 7x/8x AESA). However, unless greatly mistaken, the India MoD signed a 200 EL/M-2052 radar deal for the Tejas and rejigged Jaguar (re-engined with F-125). As I understand, the radars are being delivered (you can cross-check SIPRI, no need to trust me)

    2. BriteCloud: I will defer to the experts opinion, however, I think labeling something akin to a magic bullet seems a stretch. The Israelis, French have or will upgrade their products to rivals standards anyway.

    Again, with the RD series smoky engine and not so small RCS, the JF-17 will not just vanish to enemy radar if the rival has competent jamming systems, EW and AAMs, it will also be detectable..

    3. Meteor vs Derby: Any way the IAF will get Meteor as part of rafale deal and if French cooperation is anything to go by, integration on other aircraft should not be a major issue i assume.

    the gentleman from the US airforce is susceptible to bias as any human being is. The derby/python series predecessors have seen combat on Israeli aircrafts and those pilots are formidable as well.

    the gentleman from the US airforce seems to be assuming/taking too harsh a stance on rival platforms.

    lastly, an airwar will also involve Phalcon AWACS, other radar systems and Indian aircraft acting in conjunction. So again, I will humbly submit equipment will take you only thus far… i am very hesitant to buy this magic bullet thing.

    PS: anyway, the PESA on the MKI is being replaced with the Zhuk AESA, it already has a decent Israeli ECM suite, OLS-30, Litening AT etc.., the larger RCS is something I assume the IAF has planned for (else we will find out in a war, won’t we)

    Have a good week yourself. Thanks for sharing and teaching me.

  • helpful friend

    we live in interesting times

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