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Pakistan Defence Review: News/Procurement Updates

This is a review of main and ancillary Pakistani defence news topics along with short-hand analysis to offer clarity and context: Pakistan announced its defence budget for 2018-2019; the Public Sector Development Program’s (PSDP) budget includes an increased budget for the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO); and does India’s withdrawal from the FGFA program affect Pakistan?

Pakistan’s Proposed Defence Budget for 2018-2019

On 27 April 2018, the Government of Pakistan presented the Federal Budget for 2018-2019; the budget includes PKR 1.1 trillion (i.e. $9.6 billion US) allocated for defence. Compared to 2017-2018’s defence budget, this is a 19.5% increase. According to The Express Tribune, the Pakistan Army is to receive 47% of the budget, while the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Pakistan Navy will receive 20% and 10%, respectively.[1]

According to the Ministry of Finance, 38% of the budget (i.e. Rs. 423 billion) will be spent on ‘employee-related expenses’ (pensions are separate), while 26% and 23% of the budget will be spent on maintaining existing assets (e.g. infrastructure and air/land/sea platforms) and on operating costs, respectively.[2] ‘Civil works’ is drawing the remaining 13% of the defence budget.

Ministry of Finance. Government of Pakistan

Compared to 2017-2018, employee costs drew the highest increase – at 31% – while increases to operating expenses, existing assets and civil works have seen comparatively much smaller increases.

Pakistan did not disclose how much it will be spending on procurement. There are certainly procurement costs considering that there are at least three big-ticket programs in play: (1) the JF-17 multi-role fighter, (2) the Hangor (II)-class submarine and (3) the purchase of three new Saab Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The installments for these programs will add to Pakistan’s cash outlay, but it is unclear if these have been incorporated into the existing budget or if they are separate.

Overall, an increase in procurement expenses is to be expected. First, the depreciation of the Pakistani Rupee relative to the U.S. Dollar (USD) will necessitate it in order to sustain imports, especially those done in USD. Second, new – and confirmed – big-ticket purchases, such as the one Type 054A frigate[3] announced by the Pakistan Navy in 2017, will add to the actual defence outlay. Should the T129 attack helicopter and MILGEM corvette deals be signed, the outlay will only increase for the coming years.


Satellite Costs: PRSS-1 and PakSat-MM1

Pakistan’s Federal Budget for 2018-2019 also disclosed – through the Pakistan Public Sector Development Program (PDSP) budget – the cost of the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS-1) and Pakistan Multi-Mission Satellite (PakSat-MM1). The cost of the PRSS-1 and PakSat-MM1 are Rs. 24.26 billion and Rs. 27.58 billion, respectively. In terms of USD, that would be $209.8 million and $238.48 million, respectively.[4]

In terms of remote-sensing satellites (RSS), the PRSS-1 certainly appears to be competitive in terms of its price. For example, Turkey had agreed to spend €300 million for the Göktürk-1.[5] Secondly, the PRSS-1 also benefits from foreign assistance (i.e. Rs. 17.12 billion – i.e. $147.68 million) – this is likely a loan to back the program. Pakistan has also paid $61.3 million into the PRSS-1 thus far, with roughly another $17.25 million allocated to the PRSS-1 (a near 50:50 split between domestic and foreign funding) in 2018-2019.

The PakSat-MM1, appears to be contingent on $177.44 million in ‘assistance’ (i.e. a loan). Thus far, a total of $11.65 million (of which 63% is domestic) has been allocated towards it in the 2018-2019 PDSP budget.

Finally, speaking to an intended expansion of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Commission’s (SUPARCO) space program is a proposal for three space centers – i.e. in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. Together, the centers will cost Rs. 27 billion ($232.91 million). Certainly, this is a significant expense and could point to fairly sophisticated capabilities to be had from SUPARCO’s forthcoming satellites, especially through the duration of Space Vision 2040 (which had outlined the need for at least three RSSs).[6]

It is evident that the outlay for new satellites – especially if Space Vision 2040 is being followed – is poised to cross $750 million US and potentially reach $1 billion US. However, it is unclear how much of the long-term outlay – e.g. the follow-on RSSs – will involve domestic production (and by necessity, research and development). Though a line-of-credit is a factor in enabling the PRSS-1 and PakSat-MM1, it is still a hard-currency outflow that could otherwise be spent on nurturing long-term capacities – and in the process, saving hard-currency outflows and potentially attracting it through the export of services. This is discussed in detail in the Quwa Premium article, “The Push to Boost Pakistan’s Space Program”.

Is India’s withdrawal from the FGFA/PAK-FA relevant to Pakistan?

Last week, IHS Jane’s reported that the Indian Air Force (IAF) ended its involvement in the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program it was developing with Russia’s Sukhoi bureau. The FGFA was to be an IAF variant of the Sukhoi T-50/Su-57 PAK-FA.[7] The potential outcome of this move – if it indeed comes to pass in the long-term – is discussed in detail in the Quwa Premium article, “India’s Withdrawal from the FGFA Program”. In that article, we examine how the New Delhi is predisposed to pursue a Western alternative, most notably the Dassault-Airbus Future Combat Air System (FCAS) instead of the F-35 Lightning II.

In terms of Pakistan, the answer is still unclear. But the IAF’s purported decision regarding the FGFA does provide substantive weight to the Pakistani Minister of Defence’s (MoD) statements earlier in April, when he said: “As for Su-35 fighters: maybe in the next few years we will be able to achieve this [agreements – ed.]. We are now at the initial stage of negotiations.”[8] If anything, the IAF leaving the FGFA firmly puts an end to what could have been the largest Indo-Russian defence program to-date; in other words, decisive leverage is not in play in any negotiation involving a Pakistani Su-35 purchase (assuming there is one).

Granted, other deals from New Delhi could steer Moscow away from Islamabad. However, by losing the FGFA program, Moscow has lost a very significant source of long-term business and industrial activity from India. The life-cycle costs of a single fighter could be on-par with that of a modern naval corvette (and in some cases, a frigate), and the FGFA would have brought in-excess of 100 of those revenue generators. It is a tough loss, one that will likely push the Kremlin to seek alternatives. The alternatives need not include Pakistan, but a revision of Russia’s fifth-generation fighter programs and a renewed focus on emulating the MiG-29 model in the next-generation of fighters should be on the roadmap.

Regarding Pakistan, the apparent need of a long-range multi-role fighter – most notably for deep-strike and maritime operations – is credible. An off-the-shelf purchase of this nature would depend on when the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) own fifth-generation fighter (FGF) is truly expected to materialize. Granted, the previous PAF Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman said “five years to initiate production”.[9]

However, seldom do such short timelines materialize; rather, if the PAF is serious about steering Project Azm as a genuine FGF (especially in terms of achieving an acceptable level of ‘stealth’ – which the PAK-FA apparently lacked), the PAF FGF’s development could require the entirety of the 2020s. This is not a trivial program, thus the PAF could plausibly require a mature platform to fulfill key specialist roles in the interim.

Funding is the main bottleneck, but trade-offs could plausibly be made (from other programs) if the PAF demonstrates the strategic importance of such an acquisition. In terms of the Su-35 specifically, there are several factors unique to that fighter – such as how Russia typically organizes its defence exports – which may influence the PAF to turn it down even if it were on available. This is discussed in the Quwa Premium article, “Pakistan’s Interest in Russian Arms (Part 1): Su-35 Flanker-E”.

In terms of the range, payload and internal space (for high-powered electronics) alone, the Chinese FC-31 could be a credible interim strike and maritime fighter. Granted, its ‘stealth’ (i.e. low radar cross-section for reduced radar detectability at long-range) might be questionable, but the other attributes (e.g. range) should be sufficient for replacing the Mirage ROSE and Mirage 5PA. There is mutual benefit in a FC-31 sale – i.e. China secures its first customer and Pakistan can likely access a line-of-credit from Beijing. Moreover, it will be much easier to integrate key Chinese munitions – such as the CM-302 supersonic cruising anti-ship missile – to the FC-31 than any other platform, including the Su-35 (there is still a layer involving an outside vendor to facilitate approval and integration).


[1] Kamran Yousaf. “Defence budget up by around 20%”. The Express Tribune. 28 April 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 29 April 2018).

[2] “Budget in Brief”. Ministry of Finance. Government of Pakistan. URL: (Last Accessed: 29 April 2018).

[3] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan launches naval exercise as it aims to counter India, protect economy”. 01 March 2018. (Last Accessed: 05 March 2018).

[4] “Public Sector Development Programme.” Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform. Government of Pakistan. June 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 28 April 2018).

[5] Peter B. de Selding. “Turkey’s Gokturk-1 Reconnaissance Satellite Finally Cleared for Export.” Space News. 23 April 2015. URL: (Last Accessed: 31 December 2017).

[6] Salman Siddiqui. “Lagging behind: 2040 – Pakistan’s space od[d]yssey.” The Express Tribune. 01 August 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 31 December 2017).

[7] Rahul Bedi & Reuben F. Johnson. “India withdraws from FGFA project, leaving Russia to go it alone”. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 20 April 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 22 April 2018).

[8] “Pakistan and Russia can conclude an agreement on the purchase of Su-35 fighters”. RIA Novosti. 05 April 2018. URL:

[9] Naveed Siddiqui. “Intruders traced on radar won’t be able to go back, warns air chief”. 07 December 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 29 April 2018).

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