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Pakistan Air Chief meets Italian Chief of Defence Staff

As part of his official visit to Rome, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief-of-Air-Staff Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman met with Italy’s Chief-of-Defence Staff General Claudio Graziano.

The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that ACM Aman called for the “[cementing] of existing friendly relations and taking [those relations] to further heights.”

Gen. Graziano was briefed on the PAF’s role in Pakistan’s ongoing counterinsurgency campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Zarb-e-Azb.

Notes & Comments:

Italy has made maintaining and strengthening its defence ties with Pakistan a matter of policy, which is indicative in the relatively high and a frequent number of official visits between these countries in recent months. It should be noted that this frequency is not limited to 2016, but was also seen in 2015, with General Graziano visiting Pakistan, and the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visiting Italy.

How this translates materially is not yet known. Currently, the small arms maker Beretta is competing with the ARX-200 for Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF)’s rifle program, which is poised to join POF’s product line-up for the future. That said, POF did sign a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) with an Italian manufacturing firm, which seems to indicate a role for Italy in modernizing POF.

Beretta, along with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Elettronica, and Fiocchi will be participating at Pakistan’s forthcoming defence exhibition, the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS). In fact, Italy could have the largest footprint behind China and Turkey at IDEAS 2017.

For the PAF, conferring to Italy into the JF-17 program, especially the forthcoming JF-17 Block-III, could be a priority. The PAF may be eyeing the possibility of using Leonardo’s Vixen active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radars and Elettronica’s electronic warfare and electronic countermeasures systems for use on the JF-17 Block-III (if not for domestic use, then for export).

Besides outfitting the JF-17, the PAF could also be interested in Leonardo’s other product segments: ground-based radars, such as the KRONOS-line of AESA radars, which could be an option to replace the legacy Siemens Mobile Pulse-Doppler Radars (MPDR) for low-level coverage; AW139 helicopters could be sought to replace aging Alouette III utility helicopters; or specific electro-optical and infrared equipment for use with drones, helicopters and fixed-wing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

Acquisitions notwithstanding, the PAF – and Pakistani armed forces generally – have an interest in building valuable linkages with major overseas militaries. It is hoped that these relationships will translate into invitations to valuable multi-national exercises, training programs, and multi-national initiatives.

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