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Pakistan Air Force inaugurates new air base – PAF Bholari
February 22, 2018
The Pakistan Air Force's (PAF) Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman along with other PAF and Government of Pakistan officials. Photo source: Daily Times.

Pakistan Air Force inaugurates new air base – PAF Bholari

On December 25, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) formally inaugurated its newly built main operating base (MOB), PAF Bholari.

In his inauguration speech, the PAF’s Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman stated that the new base would enable the PAF to support the Pakistan Army “more efficiently.” The CAS added that PAF Bholari will also “augment and supplement” the Pakistan Navy’s operations.

Located in Thatta District in Sindh, northeast of Karachi, construction of PAF Bholari began in December 2015. At that time, the current CAS of the PAF had implied that PAF Bholari’s focus would be on the “conventional threat” – i.e. the PAF’s traditional focus on India.

Notes & Comments:

The PAF’s Southern Air Command (SAC) hosts a comprehensive suite of assets for air defence, strike and maritime operations. In recent years, SAC has seen the introduction of a JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter squadron (i.e. No. 2 Squadron at Masroor Air Base in Karachi) and the ZDK03-based Karakoram Eagle airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. PAF Shahbaz in Jacobabad, Sindh also hosts the No. 5 Squadron’s F-16C/D Block-52+ squadron. The PAF’s MBDA Excoet anti-ship missile (AShM)-configured Mirage 5PA continue to operate from Masroor along with the No. 2’s C-802 AShM-armed JF-17.

In line with the CAS’ statements from PAF Bholari’s inauguration, the new MOB is located within reach of the Pakistan Army’s expected combat theatres in southeast Sindh. Likewise, PAF Bholari is within 150 km of Karachi and Pakistan’s littoral waters. Currently, Pakistan has a number of options for how to set-up Bholari, which can include assigning current and forthcoming JF-17 squadrons, the ZDK03 and/or Erieye AEW&C and – considering maritime operations are a factor – in-flight refueling tankers. During the inaugurating ceremony of the MOB the PAF held a flypast with four F-16s from the No. 19 Squadron, which operates the F-16A/B Block-15ADFs (Air Defence Fighter) acquired from Jordan. It is currently unclear if these will permanently operate from Bholari.

  • Humayun Shaikh

    Its not bholri… Its Bolahri
    Its not in Thhatta district but in Jamshoro District, just out side near Hyderabad

  • Violet

    Even though platforms which will be operating out of Bholari remain unclear, I don’t understand why F-16s are still used to decorate the inaugural ceremonies when Pakistan has built “equally capable” JF-17s. Why can’t JF-17 take part in fly-by ceremonies to assure the population that PAF bases are indeed well equipped by operating ‘indigenously built’ and ‘state of the art’ JF-17 Block I and II. IMO that would go a long way in boosting the image of JF-17s and advertising the trust PAF pilots have on JF-17. After all showcasing F-16s over JF-17 in such fly-past ceremonies doesn’t make sense as most of the F-16s in PAF fleet are older generation Block 15 and Block-40s and they have come at a huge cost of self-respect and humiliation suffered at the hands of US officials. Inspite of all the reports regarding the latest 4.5+++ generation JF-17 Block I, i don’t understand why a 40 year old platform like F-16 is still considered to be the face of PAF?

    Also, irrespective of the purpose which Bholari is used, {Pakistan Today disagrees with Bilal Khan, Link: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/12/25/air-chief-says-bholari-base-to-safeguard-cpec-project/} the air base is merely located 127 Kms (89 miles) from the nearest Indian border. That brings the air base in range of a lot of enemy platforms ranging from fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, cruise missiles and also commando raids. I believe low cost Nirbhay fired in large numbers alongwith a few BrahMos should do the trick.

    • Steve

      PAF have 70+ F-16 of difference blocks but most have been upgraded by MLU and are capable of firing AMRAAM which Pakistan had hundreds of. It has been the mainstay fighter for decades so its display is appropriate. JF-17 has been displayed in-country many many times and also abroad where it really matters, and has resulted in substantial sales for a brand new fighter made by a country building fighters for the first time. Something neighbours have not achieved despite the hype and propaganda.

      The second part of your post describes a war scenario and it is non-serious as it assumes no retaliation or danger of escalation which is well known and extensively debated. It also assumes no airspace or base defences. It also mentions a missile not yet inducted.

    • sami shahid

      Indians can launch attack from 3 sides at the same time. Karachi, Sukkur & Hyderabad. To counter that we need this air base. We also have cruise missiles my friend. If India can construct runaways along the border with Pakistan then why can’t we build an air base is this city ? Your argument of displaying F-16 is correct but I do not agree with the arguement of not constructing air base in this city. It’s was a very good decision to develop this air base.

    • TZK

      I agree about your assessment, unfortunately one of the major strategic difficulties presented by the creation of the border during partition has been the location of major Pak cities in close proximity to the border, take Lahore and Karachi. This has been a nightmare for military planners. With surface to surface missile ranges and accuracy increasing defending these major cities against attacks is going to get difficult in times of war. India traditionally goes after strategic assets during a war whereas Pak tries to make territorial gains which they have to return following a cease fire. If I am not mistaken this base will bring some of Indian strategic assets and cities into range.

      • Steve

        That is why we have historically looked for strategic depth in Afghanistan and Iran. Do you think we have discarded that policy?

        • TZK

          I do not think one can count on this strategic depth and will need a short and long range missile defence systems in future based probably on the Chinese versions.

        • Nasir

          You forget that you cannot look for strategic depth in other countries. This is an example of you swallowing unrealistic weasel terms used by the Pakistani government and military. No country in the world would allow you to use their territory to launch attacks on another one from their land. It is another fanciful thought, like acquiring stealth planes for PAF.

          We have to do what is realistic and what is designed for us, not have fanciful foolish hopes and dreams.

          Do you have an views on being responsible or realistic? I would like to hear them.

          Happy New Year,

          Nasir

    • Nasir

      Why F-16s?: Because they are velayati! We as a nation have an inferiority complex. Why do you think McDonalds, and other fast food garbage will be sold in Pakistan–when it tastes like poop, and will give you a heart attack?

      About its distance from the border, there may be a legitimate reason, as one has to be close enough to react, but closeness is a doubled edged sword. So I will excuse them for picking the site: Pakistan does not have the depth or range of the planes that they have, to afford the luxury of distant air bases and refueling with a few tankers that they have with most only a handful of planes which can benefit from air refueling.

      Force protection is important, and they need to shape up ASAP.

      • Steve

        Do you think all nations using USA equipment and displaying them in parades for instance have an “inferiority complex”? The whole world including China Russia Turkey etc have McDonalds. I bet you enjoy Coke Pepsi as well which are American companies so what exactly is your point sir? Maybe you are a exclusively lassi man lol!

        • Nasir

          Yes, I do. Especially if they cannot afford to buy food or provide for their people. Coke, Pepsi, Cigarettes, and other garbage like that is they way inferiority complexes are exploited. Here in the US, it is the French shit that we spend money on. French Wine, Champaign, Cheese, any French food place, together with Chanel, and other useless fashion accessories do not provide any real benefit other than exploiting the American public’s search for class.

          Take for example a Chanel bag, it costs around $1500.00 for a normal women’s handbag: however there is only so much improvement you can make to a hand bag. You can use great leather, good hand sowing, nice colors, good hardware. However, you cannot make a purse into a car. There is only so much you can do to make a bag better. This is why people cannot really tell the difference between a Chinese knockoff, and the real thing unless they run serial numbers. Holograms and such are all made in China. In the end you can buy the Chinese for the 100 bucks or spend 1500 for the privilege of the peace of mind to have the ability to prove in a court of law that it is actually authentic: what a perverted situation! Who wants clothes and shoes authenticated by a court of law, or who challenges people to show the serial numbers. It is the ultimate con game to provide garbage in the name of class to the psychologically damaged people of the colonies.

          So there is Velayati in all places: for example there is open whoring for German products in the US, even when they are made in US.

          The thing is that if you cannot afford it, you can be the bigger person and try to put the food on the table instead of showing off to the others.

          When I was in the Service in the PAF and f-16s were initially inducted the F-6 pilots had blown up pictures of these F-16s in their gun-sights mounted on the walls from close combat exercises. Of course, it did not make F-6s better than F-16s, but it did show that the skill of the pilot, and of course the number of planes, and the ability of modify them without restrictive use documents is a strong case in point for larger number of cheaper platforms, where the operators have been trained well. Another benefit of low cost operation: a lot of training!

          So yes Steve, I think buying a restricted product and showing it off is the mentality of the people who are defensive and lack self confidence.

          As for a Turkey is concerned, I have a really low opinion of the Turkish people and their national ambivalence. They will never be part of Europe however much they bend over, and also they will be continued to be treated as garbage in the West. A Turk is not considered as European or a Western or even an ally in either Europe or in the US.

          Let’s steer away from Ad Hominems : unless the site will allow me the same privilege. Or if you let me know your professional standing so that I can communicate with you based on mutual awareness of size and quality of our arsenal. Fair enough?

        • Nasir

          Oh, BTW my Name is Muhammad A Nasir, and my email is: mnasir@comcast.net

          Perhaps we can share notes off site.

          • Steve

            Sorry not interested in any contact at all. Anonymity of this site is good and let’s military enthusiasts exchange views. Cheers

    • Jigsaw

      Try making that “homegrown” Tejas face of IAF – or face of a mere half squadron first, before passing off such shallow comments.

    • TheSchwantzPhenom

      I believe the biggest threat which frontline air bases face are from the surveillance capability of the enemy’s air force. Yes the offensive weapons you mentioned do possess a threat but the AWACS and early warning radar (EWR) stations close to the border would detect any asset the moment it gets airborne and give away its bearing, altitude, and heading to mount an effective response. That could alert the adversary’s ground based anti-aircraft systems as well as interceptors operating in the area even before those jets have left the friendly airspace. That in my opinion is probably the biggest drawback of operating a forward airbase so close to enemy territory. For example in the first gulf war, AWACS operating over Jordanian and Turkish skies virtually covered all the airspace over Iraq. (As a matter of fact nearly 83% of all bogey/bandit contacts intercepted by allied aircraft were first identified by AWACS). Any Iraqi fighter getting airborne from any part of Iraq would be identified as soon as it got airborne and the nearest CAP/escort aircrafts would be vectored onto those contacts before it could threaten the strike package. According to the pilots the situational awareness and intel provided by the AWACS in the 1st gulf war was what made a huge difference in terms of staying “one step ahead of the enemy”.
      Now as far as i know not only a country like India operates some newer AWACS sourced from Russia and Israel alongwith a few indigenous ones, they have military satellites as well to keep a round-the-clock eye on the forward airbases.
      Israeli Phalcon radars (dont have data regarding the Russian ones in IAFs inventory) have a range of 350+ kms. That means they can very well stay within the confines of their friendly airspace and snoop in on the enemy, without any real threat from any air-to-air missile or SAM operated by Pakistan at those ranges.
      I don’t see how a forward airbase is helpful in mounting an offensive mission in case of an all-out war, that too against a capable adversary armed with modern anti-air and surveillance systems.The idea behind it could be to mount a surprise attack (at a short notice) and also facilitate greater range (in case of escort/ interdiction/ surveillance missions) or loiter time (in case of combat air patrol or close air support). But with the advent of modern surveillance systems (including exo-atmospheric ones) and very capable anti-air systems i am not sure to the extent it will be beneficial.

      • TZK

        There are two issues here, firstly detecting a threat and secondly being able to neutralise it before it does any damage. AWACS may well detect a threat but how long will it take for the interceptors to counter it if there are no forward airbases. I think this forward base is for defensive purpose. AWACS will be able to detect threats and planes from this base should be able prevent any threat from reaching say Karachi, Hyderabad, Omara or Gwadar. I can see in times of war the base is likely to be targeted by cruise missiles but even if it is put out of action PAF will have gained valuable time.

  • U

    Oh I Did not know a F16 C/D squadron was based in Sindh. Interesting.

    • Steve

      I think we should stop procrastinating and get a squadron or two of J-11 armed with CM400-AKG to base there. Also a regiment of HQ-9 to take care of conventional threats. That is, if the Russian equivalents are not available. We need a long reach from this strategic location. We really need to get air bases out of crowded cities with houses abutting the boundary walls.

      • Faisal

        Bingo !!! Not sure why this idea has been ignored for so long. PAF happily adopted F-7P which was a copy of Mig21. J11 is a copy of SU-27 which is an air superiority fighter. You have plenty of bays and heavy engines to carry all sorts of Cruise and anti Ship missiles. Compare them with Mirage 3 and 5.

      • TZK

        Don’t forget India has ordered 5 batteries of s400 and this base is within range. To defeat s400 you will need low flying stealthy cruise missile and plane. J-31 is probably a better choice. Provided you have accurate co-ordinate of s400 site from satellite you can eliminate it by by firing multiple decoys while an armed cruise missile or a stealth jet takes it out, or even a commando raid. Pak does have HQ-9 which is an improved version of s300 but this is for strategic sites just as India’s s400. As it cannot be hidden underground it will be easy to spot from satellites and in theory easy to destroy in time of war. I think in future you will definitely need a squadron or two of J-31provided it passes PAF requirements for stealth.

        • Steve

          Of course their are many many scenarios. We are amateur enthusiasts and can’t possibly give a serious opinion on all of those. War gaming exists for the purposes of exploring all of this, and PA have adequate resources in that area.

  • sami shahid

    Perfect decision by PAF. We always required a strong defense of Karachi and it’s surrounding cities like Hyderabad & Badeen.

  • Steve

    Bilal do you know what base physical defences are present against low tech neighbours’ sponsored terrorists attacking the base. I assume an electrified perimeter fence, CCTV, watch towers and maybe a ditch. I hope we use motion sensors and night vision/thermal imaging for sentries. Small UAV for surveillance of surrounds if there is an alert are also seen in Western bases. Is there a central security control room with all inputs going to one location. These are all not ‘high technology’ and perfectly doable. Is there not a danger of a nasty gesture made by enemies against this new base which has Block 52+ I assume. All bases are on high alert always after Kamra I hope. Don’t give details if you know them as may be looked at by enemies but reassurance that we have ‘latest technology’ and ‘impregnable defence’ will be great hahaha!

    • bill

      Sir no matter what measures you take collateral damage is almost inevitable in case of commando attacks. We should know better that attackers/terrorists are well paid and trained by foreign powers.

    • Abdul Rashid

      Oh I do hope the defence is “impregnable” and able to “thwart any internal or external challenge”!

      BTW, unrelated to this thread, I’m currently working with two Indian gentlemen from Tamil Nadu. I have been invited to visit and stay at their place in Chennai should I wish. Now that is refreshingly different to what we see on Quwa comments section (from both sides).

      • Steve

        We work with many Indians as well and never had a problem. They are good individually abroad or even in India. That has nothing to do with the threat their government and army poses to Pakistan, or their behaviour in Kashmir and Baluchistan. It’s only as a mob that even common Indian people are able to commit appalling atrocities against their own Muslims and others. Abroad a significant number have anti Pakistan in their private conversations among themselves. Their hysterical media is also undermining goodwill. Long term peace is the only option but not until Kashmir is solved.

        • Abdul Rashid

          In my field of work I very rarely meet other South Asians.

    • Jf-17 Thunder

      You are right, but drones are mostly kept in hangars, non of the armed drones are deployed yet, especially in balochistan. why don’t they deploy armed drones near afghan border?? recently a video surfaced on social media of F.C Balochistan soldiers being hit by sniper fire and they don’t know where its coming from, all were brutally martyred, i was told by an F.C soldier how difficult it is for them to neutralize the terrorist when they attack with more heavy weapons… then the CH-3 (Burraq) comes to my mind, why don’t they deploy it in balochistan?? those soldiers need it. @disqus_Im2KNrvDZF:disqus

      • Steve

        FC have been cannon fodder for too long now. They need a substantial increase in tech, training, and support if they are to be effective. They are the front line in this war and deserve full support of government and PA.

        • TZK

          Seen photographs on the internet and it appears most FC personnel do not even have uniforms but wear the traditional dress along with baseball caps and travel in pick up trucks. I think ‘cannon fodder’ is the right word.

    • Jigsaw

      Nothing is impregnable. It’s mere jargon for public consumption. They just gotta keep their heads high and eyes open. Asymmetric attacks have gone down recently but not eliminated. PAF (and other branches) maintain an alert system based on intel on daily basis on all military bases. That’s revised every day. Otherwise all expected technical measures to layer down entry into military base and around assets is exercised. You can’t get into without a verified military ID as well as a reason. There’s a general shoot to kill orders should any one refuse to identify. And they don’t care if it’s own military personnel or what.

      • Steve

        Good to know. Physical built-up defences are important. Both against terrorists and against air/missile attacks. Hardened shelters, GPS disruption and decoys all have been used in the past.

        • TZK

          Military installations tend to be in remote areas and cover a large secured perimeter or perimeters so any vehicle or air raid by commandoes will be identified long before it reaches the perimeter. If the perimeter/s are breached then they have to travel some distance to do any damage. The problem is in small bases in built up areas where it is difficult to secure the perimeter all one can do is prevent entry and deal with the threat once inside. Worst case scenario is terrorists get in a small base without concrete shelters armed with RPG’s and information on the exact location of assets or fire mortar shells from outside. They could cause a lot of damage before they are neutralised as at PNS Mehran. Most defence establishments design sensitive locations with security as a prime objective and follow a set design plan with this in mind. Siting of military establishments needs to be away from built areas, Ojhri camp disaster in 1988 should be a lesson.

      • Nasir

        This is one of the most practical and thoughtful comment I have seen on the site. I mean ever!

        They are still not serious about Force Protection. Building Air force bases in Cities and areas where people can have a vantage point to see inside is basically the cause. Also, shoot to kill is too late. For example, anyone can shoot an RPG or other weapon inside Kamra base from surrounding areas which have clear view of the runway, hangers, and bunkers, along with the factory building view.

        The defense has to be active. Right now a few hundred dollar drone can be flown over the site and all the surveillance performed within ever coming clsoe to the perimeter of the base.

        for example:

        https://www.buydig.com/shop/product.aspx?sku=DJIPHANTOM4&ref=PLA&omid=103&utm_source=GooglePLA&utm_medium=CSE&utm_item=DJIPHANTOM4&CAWELAID=230005120001239285&CATARGETID=230005120001704572&cadevice=c&gclid=Cj0KCQiAyZLSBRDpARIsAH66VQL8k5m7nhwK8aC4i-P-TkRfKwjgbvOT0Y4E49y7_YshNBkHo6WwAiAaAkEZEALw_wcB

        A few hundred dollars. Check them out at Amazon.com for cheaper models.

        Force protection has to be handed over to someone other than the service it is protecting. For example, if it is a PAF person protecting the PAF, they will usually go out of their way to please senior staff dressed in ranking uniform or driving in a Flag car. Both easily obtainable.

        They have to deny access to anyone, including serving personnel if they do not have clearance or business in any area. Face recognition is no longer sufficient, as people can be on the take or under some threat.

        Nasir

        • Jigsaw

          Thanks. For anyone who spent their childhood days in Pakistan, there was a time when entry into military base was as easy as a getting into a supermarket. Post 9-11, i have seen that getting only more and more difficult every year. What meets the eye is only what meets the eye in terms of layered entry, defined exit and entry points, military issued IDs, registry of every person living or working in the base down to household, fortified walls, central control room, own police/intelligence, and so on. In recent years, military has also started aerial and CCTV surveillance of area. The problem is the rate at which population is increasing, every so often the military bases, once located at far stretches of city, find themselves meeting public areas. That goes for the airports and airforce bases too.

          The permanent and long lasting solution is to bring peace inside the country. FATA mainstreaming can be a good start.

  • bill

    A clarification is requested whether CM400AKG is operational with JF17 or not.

    • Bloom17

      Nope

      • Steve

        I’ve seen that pic before. Does not look photoshopped and other sources also corroborate that. I have seen the weapon displayed in Farnborough in 2014 with JF-17. Carrying two 900 kg weapons is well within the capacity of JF-17. Janes in 2015 was non committal on induction though.

        • Bloom17

          I have seen this pic too. but there is no conclusive proof or sales commitment from either party regarding its induction. so until then its not inducted. Tested maybe.

          • Jigsaw

            The weapon is confirmed to be in active service in PAF since 2013. Sales/operational status are confirmed by PAF as well as other sources such as SIPRI.

            PAF is simply not brandishing it – hence the confusion.

            The following two links verify this.

            https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/dubai-china-details-performance-of-carrier-killer-missile-for-jf-17-393301/

            https://plsadaptive.s3.amazonaws.com/gfiles/1003742-18064.pdf?response-content-type=application/pdf&AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAICW5IOYOPOZOU3TQ&Expires=1514448302&Signature=z6mQhktU8mCjYsBFF1X6dSFKjXE%3D

          • Faisal

            Jigsaw , do you know when Pakistan will get CM-302? That is the latest version available for sale as of 2016. Has better specs and a range of 280 KM which I am pretty sure is there because of international limits and once a country acquires it , they can extend it to more.

          • Jigsaw

            Hi, sorry – There’s no confirmed info about Pakistan interested in or using the CM302. I guess the major difference between CM302 and CM400AKG is later is air launched only and 302 can be launched from air land or sea. Otherwise, it’s pretty much same AFAIK.

            It could be that they evaluated it but didn’t find it a big enough jump to go for it.

          • The CM-400AKG is not a cruise missile. Generally, cruise missiles (e.g. CM-302, C-802, etc) use miniature turbojet or turbofan engines, which can allow for granular flight control (enabling terrain-hugging and sea-skimming) or setting flight routes etc. The CM-400AKG uses a rocket motor — it’s akin to a small ballistic missile. The CM-302 can do proper cruising functions (e.g. terrain hugging/sea-skimming) like the C-802, but at sustained supersonic speed (like the BrahMos). IMO it would be a welcome addition along with the Type 054A FFGs and FGF.

    • Draco
  • Syed Bushra

    The PAF’s MBDA Excoet anti-ship missile (AShM)-configured Mirage 5PA continue to operate from Masroor along with the No. 2’s C-802 AShM-armed JF-17

    What are the scenarios and timeline for replacing Mirage 5PA? Can JF-17 carry Excoets? Any licensing issues?

    • Not aware of any plans for either at the moment.

      • TZK

        The P3 Orions can carry AGM-84 Harpoon missiles but is Pak arming these with Harpoons? In relation to exocet I believe the French Naval arm has just retired their fleet of 71 Super Etendarts, would they be of any use to Pak?

        • Faisal

          How they would be any different from Mirages we already have? I would rather get more modified versions of JF-17.

          • TZK

            Thought so its a very old airframe as they stopped making them after 1983 although some were updated. Argentina will buy 4 to provide security for the G20 summit next year.

  • jamshed_kharian_pak

    News of extreme importance! PAF BHOLARI Coguratulations to the Armed Security Forces & Peoples Of Islamic Republic Of Pakistan

  • Faisal

    Seeing F-16 in the background, someone told me some of the PAF F-16s were upgraded to block 60. Its a news to me. Does anyone know?

    • Nope. PAF F-16C/Ds are Block-52+ with the AN/APG-68(v9), while the F-16A/Bs are split between the Block-15 MLU (with the same radar and subsystems as the Block-52+) and the Block-15 ADFs, which have apparently been assigned to PAF Bholari.

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