Abhinandan Mishra of the Sunday Guardian Live has reported that the French electronics giant Thales is in talks to sell an air defence system to Pakistan.
Citing an unnamed source, Mishra writes, ‚Äúan ‚Äėin-principle‚Äô deal was ‚Ä¶ approved between the Pakistan government and Thales to provide air defence system to Pakistan, which will be designed keeping the ‚ÄėIndia threat‚Äô in mind.‚ÄĚ
Notes & Comments:
The prospect of Pakistan dealing with Thales is plausible considering that Thales still considers Pakistan an attainable market for its solutions, hence its participation at the 2016 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) in Karachi in November. As per IHS Jane‚Äôs, Pakistan could spend $12 billion U.S. over the next eight years on arms procurement; although small in comparison to India, the outlay can still be a lucrative revenue pool for some vendors, including the likes of Thales and MBDA.
Although Mishra‚Äôs report is not yet verified, it should be noted that Pakistan‚Äôs agreements to negotiate ‚Äď i.e. ‚Äėletters-of-understanding‚Äô (LoUs) ‚Äď have generally been, at least during IDEAS, opaque and low-key.
For example, the LoU between Pakistan Ordnance Factories and ńĆesk√° Zbrojovka does not detail the exact specifics of what POF is negotiating for in terms of small arms. Likewise, the attention surrounding that LoU has been quiet in comparison to the final agreements, i.e. memoranda-of-understanding (MoU), signed by Heavy Industries Taxila and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex with Ukraine and France, respectively.
In other words, Mishra‚Äôs report is certainly plausible considering the circumstances. In terms of the nature of what Pakistan could be pursuing from Thales, that is not known.
The ‚ÄúIndia threat‚ÄĚ element indicates that the solution would be channeled to strengthen Pakistan‚Äôs capacity for addressing external conventional threats.
Thales‚Äô air defence product catalogue comprises of the following:
Pakistan‚Äôs air defence requirements could land any one ‚Äď or multiple ‚Äď of those areas, hence it is difficult to determine the probable scope of its dealings with Thales. It will be worth observing exactly which one of Pakistan‚Äôs service arms is negotiating with Thales. For example, in the case of the Pakistan Army, then the focus could be on SHORAD and VSHORAD solutions, particularly mobile systems to defend armoured formations or forward bases, respectively. If it is the Pakistan Air Force, the scope could be focused on finding a successor to the Siemens MPDR. If Thales is dealing with the Pakistan Navy, then the focus could be on sensor and command and control systems for use on an existing or future surface warship. An air defence solution beyond SHORAD would necessitate a munitions vendor such as MBDA.
With the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) searching for a helmet-mounted display and sight (HMD/S) system for the JF-17 Thunder, the prospect of the Thales TopOwl-F being a choice is plausible. Currently, China does not have a marketable HMD/S product (though a system for the FC-31 is under development). There are scarcely few other options available on the market at this time other than the Thales TopOwl-F and, less plausibly, the BAE Striker II. An open channel with Thales could be a factor in this respect.