During the 2018 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) opted to showcase that it was ‘staying the course’ with a predefined, long-term modernization roadmap.
The core of this roadmap was set by Air Headquarters (AHQ) more than a decade ago, i.e., complete the procurement of 150 JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft, enable and enhance interoperability among each of the PAF’s combat and surveillance assets, and address the margins where possible.
It is in the ‘margins’ where activity is, perhaps, the most dynamic. For the PAF, the ‘margins’ are programs that are important, but not essential to maintaining a deterrence posture vis-à-vis India. Major examples of this are the PAF’s search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopters and lead-in-fighter-trainer (LIFT) needs.
In terms of SAR, the PAF announced (via an event daily) that it concluded the procurement of 14 AW139 SAR helicopters. The Leonardo AW139 has replaced the PAF’s legacy Alouette IIIs in the SAR role.