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Pakistan Air Force Chief on official visit to Italy
September 20, 2019
Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman and Lt. General Enzo Vicciarelli. Photo credit: Associated Press of Pakistan

Pakistan Air Force Chief on official visit to Italy

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief of Air Staff – Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman – is currently on an official visit to Italy on the invitation of the Chief of the Italian Air Force Lt. General Enzo Vecciarelli.

The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that the two sides “agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in professional training” and to continue participating in “mutually conducted exercises.”

The PAF and the Italian Air Force were both participants of the Turkish Air Force’s marquee air exercise, Anatolian Eagle, which took place in May.

Note & Comments:

The PAF Air Chief’s visit comes in the backdrop of a recent drive on the part of Rome and Islamabad to improve bilateral relations across multiple fronts, including defence.

In September, Italy’s defence minister Roberta Pinotti visited Pakistan and had met with her Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif as well as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. In parallel, Italy’s Secretary General and National Armament Director Lt. General Carlo Magarrassi called on the Secretary of Defence Production Lt. General (retired) Syed Muhammad Owais.

Since 2005, Pakistan has ordered MBDA Spada 2000-Plus surface-to-air missile and Falco unmanned aerial vehicle systems from Italy. Current procurement programs underway include a purchase of Leonardo AW-139 utility helicopters and a factory upgrade program for Heavy Industry Taxila (HIT).

It would be premature to suggest that other programs are also underway, but it is worth noting that the Italian defence industry is expected to have a relatively strong presence at the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), which will take place in November.

Small arms vendor Beretta, electronics warfare and electronics countermeasure specialist Elettronica SpA, ordnance producer Fiocchi, and defence giant Leonardo are scheduled to exhibit at IDEAS.

There are several areas of possible collaboration, such as outfitting the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter, further upgrading Pakistan’s land-based air defence network, providing a new assault rifle to the Pakistan Army, and (longer-term) potentially outfitting future Pakistan Navy surface combatants.