According to a recent press release by Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP), Turkey and Pakistan have three “massive” defence deals in the pipeline.
Upon inking a deal to buy an unspecified number of Super Mushshak basic flight trainers from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Pakistan’s MoDP announced that Turkey will in fact acquire a relatively large number of Super Mushshak aircraft.
In addition, the MoDP also noted the contract it had awarded to Turkey’s STM for upgrading the Pakistan Navy’s three Agosta 90B submarines, which presently form the core of the Navy’s submarine fleet. STM was selected over France’s DCNS on the basis of a “technically and commercially superior” package, even though it was originally DCNS that had designed and built the Agosta 90B submarines.
The two sides will also celebrate the handing over of the Fleet Tanker to the Pakistan Navy. Designed by STM and produced at Karachi Shipyards and Engineering Works (with kits from Turkey), the Fleet Tanker displaces 15,600 tons and is capable of travelling at 20 knots.
Comment and Analysis
Turkey is a major supplier of defence hardware to Pakistan. In fact, with the exception of China, Turkey may emerge as the biggest supplier and source of advanced military technology. Besides armament sales (see background section below), the space for potential collaboration in technology development and commercial work could be a worthwhile avenue for both parties.
While Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported that Pakistan was interested in the Turkish TFX next-generation fighter program (see: Is Pakistan interested in the Turkish TFX?), this idea is far from being a real prospect. However, there are two Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) programs immediately available to Pakistan and worth considering – the TAI Anka unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and Hürkuş turboprop trainer.
TAI has been comfortable with the idea of engaging with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). For example, TAI had contracted some work for the Anka unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to PAC, even though the Anka has not been inducted by Pakistan. Although Pakistan may be more inclined towards Chinese UAV designs (see: Crashed UAV in Pakistan was undergoing flight tests), there may be room for interesting work in the area of the Hürkuş.
Above all, the feasibility of such an avenue would depend on the PAF’s requirements, namely if it accepts the value of adopting a turboprop design such as the Hürkuş to replace the T-37 Tweet, which forms the backbone of its basic fighter trainer fleet. While this is a discussion of its own, the main rationale behind using new turboprop designs in lieu of legacy jets for training is that the performance of the turboprops is not far behind from older jets. However, by virtue of their low-powered engines, turboprops are much cheaper to fly and maintain.
Should the PAF embrace this model, it would acquire a large number of Hürkuş to replace its T-37s, and in turn, locally manufacture the aircraft under license. However, the program could grow in scope should TAI and PAC decide to co-market and co-manufacture the Hürkuş for the wider market. Irrespective of the value of the turboprop training model, there is no doubt at this stage that turboprop platforms are being adopted by major and minor air forces alike across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
If TAI completes the development of the armed Hürkuş-C, which could be used as a counterinsurgency (COIN) close air support (CAS) platform akin to the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, then the potential market for the Hürkuş is large. Granted, it could cut into the sales of JF-17, which also aims for the low-end fighter market, but in either scenario, PAC would be a beneficiary (as opposed to Embraer or another company). If the Hürkuş succeeds, then PAC could be involved in parts manufacturing and long-term support work.
This is a hypothetical example (albeit one TAI might be interested in seeing through in reality), but there are scarcely few prospective partners for commercial collaboration available to Pakistan. Collaboration of this nature need be restricted to the Hürkuş, it could happen in other applications instead, e.g. armoured vehicles, artillery, communications, electronic warfare and electronic countermeasures, etc.
It will be worth seeing if Turkey actively and passive imparts industry and technology development lessons onto Pakistan, which could have a strong impact on the latter, especially since it is exploring its options for growth (see: Indigenization will be critical to Pakistan’s next-generation fighter).
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) was responsible for implementing the Mid-Life Update onto the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s F-16A/B Block-15 aircraft in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The PAF will also procure 16 Aselsan ASELPOD advanced targeting pods, which will be integrated to the JF-17 Thunder. The PAF is currently in touch with TAI over the prospect of upgrading another batch of F-16A/Bs, likely the used units acquired from Jordan.
The Pakistan Navy is also interested in acquiring four MILGEM corvettes, though this purchase will depend on Turkey releasing a $400 million U.S. loan, which may be unlikely at this time given recent events (i.e. the coup attempt and Turkey’s short-term volatility). That said, with the Agosta 90B upgrade, STM Fleet Tanker and MRTP-15/33 fast attack crafts in mind, there is little doubt that the prospect for naval and maritime cooperation is immense between the Pakistan Navy and the Turkish defence industry.
Meanwhile, upon the completion of the TAI T-129’s trials in Pakistan, it appears that the Pakistan Army is interested in pursuing the dedicated attack helicopter. At this year’s Farnborough Air Show in the U.K., a Pakistan Army delegation met with TAI officials to discuss how the T-129 could be tailored for the Army’s needs. In the coming months, a Pakistani delegation will also observe the qualification tests of the Roketsan Mizrak-U anti-tank guided missile from the T-129.