Pakistan Air Force enhancing base defence capabilities
December 10, 2023
Photo credit: Associated Press of Pakistan

Pakistan Air Force enhancing base defence capabilities

According to a listing on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had submitted a sole-source request in November 2016 for a Warrior Skills Trainer (WST) simulator from Cubic Defence Applications. On March 15, the request was revised into an open bid valued at $2.5 million U.S. including spare parts and support for one year.

Under the bid, the PAF required a WST system comprising of a simulator with 180° field-of-view and VBS3 image generation; five untethered AK-47 simulation weapons with two simulation magazines; a tethered AT4 portable single-shot simulation rocket; one “high fidelity” HMMWV simulation vehicle with tethered M240B vehicle mount and two simulation ammunition belts; a tether-less charging system.

Described by Cubic as an “extension” of the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) system, the WST was designed for training infantry for “convoy, mounted and dismounted operations.” This is an aspect of small-team infantry operations for built-up urban environments and quick-response tasks.

Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) photos from June 26 show PAF infantry personnel – specifically an anti-terrorism unit – armed with AK-47 assault rifles, side-arms and handheld radios. In those same images, a Navistar MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle is in the background, indicating that the MaxxPro is one of the PAF’s assault vehicles for small team operations.

In August 2012, the PAF’s Minhas Air Base suffered a terrorist attack which had resulted in the loss of three Saab 2000-based Erieye airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) – one written-off and two damaged. This attack – along with ongoing threats to bases and other sensitive sites – prompted the PAF and its sister service arms the Army and Navy to improve their respective base defence capacities.

Interestingly, the WST mirrors a recent Pakistani purchase, namely its acquisition of Instalaza Alcotán AT (M2) 100 mm anti-tank rockets, which is analogous to the Saab AT4. However, the Alcotán-100 was listed as a Pakistan Army purchase. It is not known if the PAF will be allocated some of the Alcotán-100 systems (there are 158 VOSEL M2 firing units and 1,413 rockets on order) or if it is buying the Saab AT4 instead.

Introduced in 1987, the Saab AT4 is an 84-mm single-shot recoilless rocket that is seeing use by dozens of militaries, including the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. It is available in anti-armour, anti-structure and anti-personnel forms, some with integrated red-dot sights.

On March 17, Saab had announced a sale of AT4 CS ER (Confined Space Extended Range) and AT4 CS HP (Confined Space High Penetration) to an “undisclosed” customer, which Pakistan has been on occasion (e.g. recent sale of Erieye AEW&C systems). Whether this AT4 buyer is Pakistan remains to be seen.

At the biennial International Defence Exhibition and Seminar, which took place in Karachi in November, Spain’s UROVESA demonstrated its VAMTAC. The VAMTAC is similar in design to the HMMWV. However, there are no VAMTAC orders listed in the Pakistan Ministry of Defence Production’s 2015-2016 yearbook. It is not clear if the PAF will acquire another light armoured vehicle model to complement or supplant the MaxxPro MRAPs. In fact, Pakistan has 40 additional MaxxPro MRAP vehicles on order from Navistar. The “Light Armed Vehicle Assault” program may also be a factor should additional vehicles be required.