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Pakistan Reveals its Own ‘Space Command’

Author Profile: Syed Aseem Ul Islam is a Research Scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, specializing in adaptive and model-predictive flight control systems. He received his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad, and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in flight dynamics and control from the University of Michigan.

On 15 September 2021, the Pakistan Army (PA) Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Air Headquarters (AHQ) in Islamabad. The COAS was given a tour of specialized facilities. 

On casual inspection, the official video shows a VIP making a routine visit. However, a closer look reveals that the video is filled to the brim with details and could be thought of as a “soft” announcement of capability, or at the very least, an intention.

Pakistan Space Command

Possible Display of Pakistan Space Command at Air Headquarters Islamabad

A shot in the video appears to show a lighted sign that seems to read “Pakistan Air Force Space Command.” Though this text is unclear and might be a misreading, the other contents of this video leave little doubt of a space-focused operating environment. This visit and video appear to a be soft announcement of a space command led by the PAF.

Real Facility or Display?

It is the author’s opinion that the facility shown in the video is a display facility usually meant for visiting dignitaries and/or a proof-of-concept. 

The rationale for this assertion stems from the small size of the facility and its emphasis on displays, posters, callouts, and unusually empty workstations.

For comparison, the layout plan of the PakSat-1R ground control station shown below is significantly larger, and more akin to traditional operation centers seen throughout the world.

This of course points to the establishment of a much bigger and dedicated operational facility elsewhere. It is possible that the proposed Pakistan Space Center (PSC) near Chakri may form the future headquarters of the space command.

Some of the displays seen in the video, which can be seen as announcements of current or desired capability, are:

Linking to PAF’s Recognized Air Picture

It appears that Pakistan Air Force Space Command (PAFSC) is linked to the PAF’s “Project Vision” and could potentially act as a node of the PAF’s growing C4I (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence) capabilities. The PAF could potentially expand Project Vision with the space assets under PAFSC.

Figure 1: Air Defense Operations Center Recognized Air Picture


Managing UAV-based surveillance

Various feeds that are from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) can be seen throughout the video, which indicates that PAFSC will be given command of at least reconnaissance – or possibly all – UAV assets (and/or potential future unmanned combat aerial vehicles or UCAVs).

Figure 2: Composite graphic showing video feeds of UAV’s.

Monitoring of Hostile Reconnaissance Satellites

This is a function that must have been carried out for decades to hide the movement, deployment, and testing of strategic assets. However, this video shows several screens showing satellites and their sensor cones, presumably to better avoid them.

SATCOM Development

There have been numerous hints of Pakistan seeking a satellite communications (SATCOM) capability to support its UAVs, cruise missiles, and aircraft.

In fact, the designs of Shahpar-II and the unnamed PAC MALE UAV both show fuselage areas for SATCOM terminals. The video shows a station with “SATCOM Development” on it indicating that this capability is being sought in earnest.

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)

Two stations — i.e., one labeled “GNSS Design and Simulation” and “GNSS Development” can also be seen in the video. Even though the on-screen material are clearly placeholders, these stations announce the interest in the development of some sort of local location services and navigation system. This may be in conjunction with, or a takeover of, the Pakistan Navigation System program being undertaken by SUPARCO, which is detailed later in this article.

Furthermore, another poster in the background shows all of the major GNSS systems in service and a title that possibly reads “Multi Constellation Systems,” with pictures of REK, Ra’ad air-launched Cruise missile (ALCM), JF-17, and F-16. This suggests that Pakistan is using multi-constellation GNSS receivers in these vehicles. The goal of the work on GNSS systems reads, “To pursue assured, redundant, accurate and survivable….(GNSS).”

Also seen on the GNSS poster is a section labeled “… Jamming/Anti Jamming Systems,” which indicates that Pakistan is researching GNSS jamming and possibly spoofing.

The Role of SUPARCO

Being the military-controlled space agency of Pakistan, it is somewhat surprising that SUPARCO does not seem to be in the lead of the space command initiative. 

Perhaps, SUPARCO’s lackluster performance over the years and the desire to return SUPARCO to the realm of civilian space programs may be behind PAF taking the lead role on Pakistan’s space command.

With that being said, according to the 2021-2022 federal budget request, SUPARCO is working on several important programs that should feed into the operations of PAFSC, namely:

Pakistan Multi-Mission Satellite (PAKSAT-MM1R)

A satellite in development to replace the “gap-filler” PakSat-MM1 geostationary satellite that provides communications in the C and Ku bands. PakSat-MM1R will provide communication services in the C, Ku, and Ka bands.

According to SUPARCO’s website, PakSat-MM1R will have the capability to communicate with very small aperture stations (VSAT), which is an indication of an expected local SATCOM capability for various military uses, albeit with the delays associated with satellites in geostationary orbit. It is expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2024.

Pakistan Optical Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS-02)

This shares its name with the PRSS-01 launched in July 2018. However, it is closer in design to the indigenous and previously launched PakTES-1A, with a much bigger optical payload. 

Three PRSS-02 design satellites are to be launched under the PRSC-EOS program in 2022-2023. 

These satellites will be in sun-synchronous orbits and will not be as large as the PRSS-01, and thus not as high resolution. But they will provide more rapid imagery due to their numbers.

The launch of these satellites so soon (2023) points to an expediated need for near-real-time imagery. It may be speculated that is a demand due to the establishment of PAFSC.

Pakistan Remote Sensing Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite and Pakistan Satellite Navigation Program

These are programs for which the feasibility and system definition studies are being carried out. 

Therefore, these programs are in their infancy but indicate the desire of Pakistani planners to expand Pakistan’s presence in space.


This is another program in the feasibility and system design study phase. It is not clear what this program will entail but significant funds were requested for this program with an equally significant foreign aid contribution, possibly from China.

What Can We Expect?

Since it is evident that the location shown in the video is more akin to a display center, we can expect that there might be more than meets the eye. Since this is a PAF-led project, it is almost certain that PAFSC will become a part of PAF’s Project Vision. 

We can also expect that it will be the PAF that will bring SATCOM capability to Pakistan UAVs. Consequently, we can expect the Pakistan Navy (PN) to utilize these SATCOM’s for the development of its own long-range UAV capabilities.

Also noteworthy is the fact that a lot of data appears to be collected at this center: weather information, satellite data, UAV feeds, air defense radar pictures, early warning radar pictures, airborne radar pictures, and possibly signal intelligence feeds. 

Therefore, we should expect significant effort on PAF’s part on fusing this data into a meaningful combined picture. Perhaps the recently established Center of Artificial Intelligence and Computing (CENTAIC) will play a key role in bringing this capability to PAFSC. The integration of PN’s and PA’s data into the centralized PAFSC data-fusion center may enhance its capabilities and usefulness many folds and certainly warrants serious consideration.

Looking To The Future

PAFSC is bound to have the desire to be on the cutting edge of capabilities and in constant search for key advantages. In this regard, we can speculate on what the future may hold for PAFSC.

For offensive capabilities, PAFSC should pursue an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), which is usually a large missile. Since ASATs create space junk that threatens everything in orbit, such a missile should not be tested unless very extreme circumstances exist, however, the capability to kinetically take out the enemy’s space infrastructure should be maintained. This is especially necessary since India is known to have tested an ASAT weapon.

Anti-satellite directed-energy (ASDE) weapons should be pursued in parallel with an ASAT program as a means to temporarily disrupt the operations of enemy satellites. These systems can be possibly airborne or based on satellites. The advantage of these systems is that their use does not create space junk and is more acceptable.

High-Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) should be employed by PAFSC to augment its future fleet of satellites. HAPS are large UAVs that fly at very high altitudes for extended periods (many days), allowing satellite-like persistence on target at a fraction of the cost. 

Since HAPS cost so little to build and operate, many more of them can be deployed. However, developing HAPS is not without challenges that include designing and constructing flexible structures and their control, and energy management. 

Integrated Dynamics appears to have a HAPS technology demonstrator and plans to build a full-size HAPS called Stratos. PAFSC should fund this program to support local industry and build a new capability at the same.


The revelation of the existence of a PAFSC is a welcome development as it shows that PAF is cognizant of its future needs and how they will depend on the control and defense of space. 

Another reason that this development is appreciable is that this will either force SUPARCO to play catch up and become a productive organization, or it will be cut loose from the SPD so that it can be a wholly civilian-focused organization. 

Either outcome should be beneficial for SUPARCO and Pakistan’s space interests. 

Judging from the recent urgency demonstrated by programs under SUPARCO it would appear that the former is true. What is needed is that PA, PN, and PAF coordinate their efforts towards a network-centric multi-domain capability by integrating their various programs for integrated combat management. Evidence of such close cooperation is yet to be seen.

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