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Pakistan’s C4ISR (Part 3): Intelligence and Reconnaissance


Part-three of our series on Pakistan’s C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, and reconnaissance] is a continuation of our topic on Pakistan’s ISR. In part-two, we offered an overview of Pakistan’s ground-based and airborne surveillance assets, part-three will build upon this by shedding light on Pakistan’s intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities.

Surveillance assets, such as air surveillance radars, serve an integral role in building situational awareness, especially in the terms of providing early warning as well as creating room for a timely response. However, these radars offer situational awareness in only one respect, and that is in terms of managing airborne threats. In the battlefield, there are a large number of issues that need to be identified, understood, and addressed. The issues one faces will be different with every situation, hence the critical need to possess the means to gather information across a wide range of mediums.

In addition to being able to acquire information about the situation in the skies, one will also require the capacity to acquire information about the situation on the ground, in the sea, and in the electromagnetic spectrum (e.g. wireless communications, radio wave emissions, etc). This can only be accomplished with the use of other sensor systems, such as electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) sensors, synthetic aperture radars (SAR), and signal intelligence (SIGINT).

As one might imagine, being able to build situational awareness across so many mediums requires a number of different systems. These include EO and IR pods, electronic support measures (ESM), a diverse range of delivery platforms, and even orbital assets, i.e. satellites. The sum of these systems constitute a country’s intelligence and surveillance capabilities.

Pakistan’s Reconnaissance Capabilities

In the early 1960s, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was given 26 Martin B-57 Canberra bombers by the United States. These bombers were joined by two RB-57Bs, which were Canberra aircraft specially equipped for high-altitude photo-reconnaissance missions. Unfortunately, by the end of the 1965 war, these RB-57Bs were no longer airworthy. In 1967, the PAF acquired three Dassault Mirage IIIRP tactical reconnaissance fighters from France (as part of a larger package of 24 Mirage IIIs). These Mirage IIIRPs were equipped with Long-Range Aerial Photography (LORAP) pods, which enabled them to capture photos from high-altitude. In the mid-1970s, the PAF added another 10 LORAP-equipped Mirage IIIs. For several decades, these Mirages were at the core of the PAF’s overall image intelligence (IMINT) strategy.

By the mid-2000s, the PAF’s IMINT strategy – and ISR strategy in general – had begun to take on several significant shifts. First, the LORAP-equipped Mirage IIIs could not be counted upon to help the PAF in its counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The cause for this was due to the fact that photos taken with the LORAP required a 24-hour processing period, which practically makes them useless in scenarios where the situation is evolving on a rapid basis.

To address this problem, the PAF acquired UTC Aerospace DB-110 photo-reconnaissance pods from the U.S. The DB-110s were equipped with the PAF’s new-built F-16C/D Block-52+ multi-role fighters, and afforded the PAF the capability to capture, process, and exchange reconnaissance photos in near real-time. This was made possible thanks to the DB-110’s use of modern imaging technology as well as its capability to feed imagery to a ground stations via data-link transmission. The tactical advantages accrued from this set-up were immense. Information captured by an DB-110-equipped F-16 could be passed to every relevant armed forces respondent in an area, enabling them an exponentially higher level of flexibility in terms of addressing a situation, especially when compared to the Mirage IIIRP. In fact, the DB-110 was even used to map the Swat area in the lead-up to Operation Rah-e-Rast in the summer of 2009.

The PAF also made a number of improvements to its use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). In 2009, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) began producing Finmeccanica Falco UAVs under license. The Falco drones were acquired to strengthen the PAF’s tactical surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. With a flight endurance of 8 to 14 hours, the Falco is capable of holding a payload of 25kg. This made it a suitable platform for carrying electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors, which could capture live video and monitor an area at nighttime, respectively.

In addition, the Falco could even be configured to carry a SAR pod, which would enable it to capture imagery using radio waves. SAR is particularly useful in its capacity to offer high-resolution imagery in poor weather conditions. Moreover, SAR – alongside GMTI [ground moving target indicator] capability – can offer users the capacity to identify moving targets (e.g. vehicles). It is possible that GMTI-capable SAR pod will be acquired for use on the F-16 (via the UTC-Finmeccanica TacSAR) or JF-17 (via perhaps pods from Turkey’s Aselsan or Finmeccanica’s Selex group).

EO/IR and SAR can be integrated onto a wide variety of platforms. For example, the PAF integrated Star Safire III EO/IR sensor ball alongside a BRITE Star II laser-designator on its C-130 Hercules transports. These “FLIR Herks” were used in Operation Rah-e-Nijat in October 2009 as airborne reconnaissance aircraft. In fact, the EO/IR feed is linked to flat-panel monitors. Pakistan Army personnel onboard the “FLIR Herks” relayed information from those feeds to ground-based friendlies by radio. While not an advanced form, this process is an example of network-centric warfare and an implementation of modern C4ISR methods.

Tactical Signals Intelligence

Tactical signals intelligence (SIGINT) is the method by which one monitors the electromagnetic spectrum in order to address enemy communications (i.e. communications intelligence or COMINT) and radio wave emissions (i.e. electronics intelligence or ELINT). As one might notice, this is an incredibly broad scope, one that covers the use of many subsystems designed to intercept and respond to a myriad of electromagnetic exchanges on land, in the air, and at sea.

Pakistan’s SIGINT capabilities are almost entirely embedded as subsystems within a number of complete platforms. For example, the electronic warfare (EW) and electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems used by the PAF’s F-16s and JF-17s are at some level SIGINT tools. The F-16’s defensive ECM suite (ALQ-211) is designed to identify emissions from enemy radars and – through digital radio frequency memory (DRFM-based methods – jam them. Similarly, the Pakistan Navy’s various surface warships and aerial assets are also equipped with SIGINT equipment, which is generally used to detect hostile electromagnetic activity, and in turn, initiative the procedures to mitigate them (via EW/ECM systems).

The PAF does possess a handful of dedicated SIGINT platforms in the form of the Dassault Falcon 20. The PAF retrofitted these VIP jets with dedicated electronic support measures equipment for ELINT, EW and ECM purposes. However, the Falcon 20 is basically among a handful of dedicated ESM platforms in the Pakistani military; the vast majority of this work is – as stated earlier – done through subsystems integrated onto multi-role or multi-mission platforms, such as fighter aircraft and frigates.

COMINT is essentially the practice of intercepting communications, whether it be between people directly, or through various forms of technology. This sits in the realm of structural or strategic intelligence work, which is done by agencies such as Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

ISR from Space

Pakistan’s tactical reconnaissance capabilities are up-to-par with its contemporaries. The possession of a UAV capable of carrying EO/IR equipment as well as the DB-110 photo-reconnaissance pod give Pakistan the capacity to acquire and diffuse reconnaissance information to connected assets in real-time.

That said, Pakistan’s reconnaissance capabilities are incomplete, especially in terms of space. For example, Pakistan does not possess (at least officially) military satellite programs, which are vital for a robust C4ISR system. In terms of intelligence and reconnaissance, Pakistan does not have plans for a dedicated surveillance satellite, a system that could be used to capture high-resolution images. Granted, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO)’s PRSS-1 [Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite] could theoretically be re-purposed for military use, but there is no indication that this will be the case.

In the interim, Pakistan will likely attempt to use the satellite ISR assets of its partners, most notably China. Of course, any exchange by Beijing would be done with its own interests in mind, first and foremost. It is unlikely that this will carry over into war-time support against a state-based adversary. In the end, the Pakistani military would be best served through its own dedicated military satellites, which would not only serve its ISR needs, but its communications and location/guidance requirements as well.

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  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 17, 2016 10:45 am 0Likes

    I take the last paragraph as a personal opinion. The assessment of Pakistani military not being allowed Chinese space capabilities is completely wrong and superficial. The interest is not of Beijing but mutual of both Pakistan and China against such a war with state based adversary (well, i’ll read that as india). CPEC will reimpose this mutual interest only more. Pakistan is a major market for chinese weaponry now, and with changing dynamics of war, its illogical that pakistan would buy a capability without it being functional in a war time scenario, especially when india will rely heavily on GLONASS and GPS and israeli tech. It simply goes against chinese interest to disallow access to intel and info that pakistan requires for gathering info or carrying out strikes. A number of pakistani strategic weapons are already integrated with chinese satellites and beidou and more are on the way.

    These things are never announced nor will they be needed to be announced. Pakistani military has stopped doing that. It goes without saying that china has been extending all such help in past conflicts as well.

    Of course own dedicated sats are the answer pakistan needs ultimately.

  • by Ashi Sidhu
    Posted March 17, 2016 11:53 am 0Likes

    You are wrong India has its own GPS type local system IRNSS which covers whole of China ,Indian ocean ,Pakistan and Afghanistan
    It is a combination of 7 satellites out of which 6 have been launched successfully

  • by saqrkh
    Posted March 17, 2016 12:14 pm 0Likes

    It is but I prefer being on the overly cautious side, making the harshest assumptions. It is also going to depend on the nature of the war as well. An unprovoked Pakistani incursion into India isn’t going to be taken lightly in China, IMO. On the other hand, if India decides to beat the drums on its own accord with threats of pre-emptive strike, etc, then China might see Pakistan as a defending side, and hence offer the support.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 17, 2016 12:15 pm 0Likes

    IRNSS is not operational and provides partial coverage. Integration with military will take years or decades in case of India. In any case, this is not the point. India will continue to rely largely on GLONASS, GPS, and israeli intel sats as has been the case in kargil and 2001 standoff. IRNSS will never relieve india of its foreign dependence but is nevertheless a step in right direction.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 17, 2016 12:30 pm 0Likes

    That is correct to prepare for the worst case scenario. The understanding is correct and should guide military strategies.
    but I’m not sure bilal, how you came up with conclusion of pakistan going unprovoked into india. Pakistan is not carrying out any incursions into indian territory, nor has ever despite india exporting terrorism into pakistan on evidence. If the reference is to kashmir or kargil, then these are both disputed areas to say the least. Kashmir is a pakistani territory which was made a mess of by wrongfully giving india regions that never belonged to it followed by indian incursion into pakistani territory of kashmir by force. Likewise, this is pretty obvious to see that pakistan would never exercise any incursion into india on international border, for many logical reasons. pakistani military is a defensive force and has no aggressive coldstart doctrines in secret implementation. Pakistan has not conspired against india like in 1971 but india has. In every war, india has been the one to open international border to start full scale war whereas pakistan’s concerns have only been limited to kashmir. these are facts. now if they are taken oppositely in india, that’s fine but the assessment of pakistan doing an unproved operation into india, is pretty illogical. i’m surprised actually here.
    one thing is clear. the future war, if ever, with india will be a classic 26/11 type event where some “pakistani” actors will carry out some situation in india even before someone has taken evidence, in response of which india will try to “teach pakistan a lesson”, will carry out some surgical strikes, the response of which will be pakistani response within minutes and events getting out of control.
    it simply does not serve any purpose for pakistan at any logical level to open an international border with india. why would it?
    This nation is itching for a war. there is a national disorder in place with large imports of weaponry. when you have such large amounts of acquisition, they are for a purpose. pakistan should expect a larger indian aggression on pakistan around time when india’s BMD and defence systems are in place.
    the lies being spoken in india against pakistan are unprecedented.

  • by Ashi Sidhu
    Posted March 17, 2016 6:28 pm 0Likes

    I don’t want to go into who is the aggressor but I don’t know why u Pakistanis keep beating the drum around “Bharat ka Jangi junoon ”
    Do u know that we have communist China which has expansive mindset like Soviet union and lays claim on Indian territory that is why India builds some military certainly a country which is already at war within and has military deployed on more than half its area is not a threat to india

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 17, 2016 6:51 pm 0Likes

    I dont care if there is a communist china on your head or not. That is your problem, not mine. Pakistan’s problem is india’s constant war mongering and threats to pakistan. there is a general idea floating in every indian’s mind of “teaching pakistan a lesson”, “finishing pakistan off the map”, “break balochistan”, “destablize pakistan thru afghanistan”, and more. and this is not matter of word play- the kind of war mongering videos coming out of india are living proof to it.
    there is not even a remote chance of china and india going to war but there is a big chance of india exercising a coldstart against pakistan. in last 10 years the only thing preventing that has been pakistan’s effective response and basically very efficient military machine. otherwise, when india got the chance and pakistani troops were outnumbered by 15:1, india attacked pakistan in 1971 to break it.

    every second spent in indian policy makers has inclusion of how to weaken ad damage pakistan further.
    sorry i will not buy this china communist idea. its illogical and frankly not pakistan’s problem.

  • by MT
    Posted March 17, 2016 8:50 pm 0Likes

    Keep consoling yourself with your preconceived notions–

    IRNSS with 6 satellites have better civilian resolution than 20 meter resolution provided by GPS in India—With 4 satellites they had 18 hour coverage, which increased to 24 hours for 5 satellites–

    The military resolution are in cm/inches & Satellite integration is not like an aircraft program where integrating every new missile requires 1000 of new test, minute changes in design & sets of regressive procedures !Well the last satellite is to be launched in April 1 st week and full integration is scheduled in July!
    You guys cant even send 50 Kg object in low earth orbit which India achieved much before you were born in 1979!
    Do remember that 2 of the backup satellites are to be fabricated and kept in stock!

    Do also remember that Indian satellites are in GSO, GTO orbit of 35700 KM much above the range of Anti sat weapons China,Us have tested–China & Us have only been able to destroy Low earth satellites to height of 2000 KM!

    IRNSS with coverage of 1500-2000 KM +- north, south ,east west from India is much more reliable than GLONASS who may revoke the military signal contract in event of war !

    IRNSS have better resolution than GLONASS on military scale while US dont share any military GPS signal with India!

    Israel have no GPS & spy satellites in 1999 so stop contorting the fake messaged about Israel intel sats!

  • by SP
    Posted March 17, 2016 8:58 pm 0Likes

    India is just using the spectre of red communist china on the rise to frighten the west and to gain support for its own military build up on the pretext of counter balancing communist China. A hindutva India is a greater danger to the world than a communist china.

  • by MT
    Posted March 17, 2016 9:02 pm 0Likes

    oo yes- How many hindus join suicide bombers, infiltrate into Pakistan & kill pakistani civilians in name of their religion??
    How many hindus are terrorizing western countries & demanding sunni shariat law in Europe

    India is considered a soft power with no expansionist attitude!

    Its Pakistan which has been using terrorism as its state policy to fight superior indian conventional forces!

  • by SP
    Posted March 17, 2016 9:17 pm 0Likes

    Hindutva or Hindu Fundamentalism is Nazism on the rise. Hindutva is based on racial purity and supremist mindset with expansionist goals. Nazis Germany was inspired by Hindutva. Hindu fanatics are a growing threat to world peace in the 21st century.

  • by MT
    Posted March 17, 2016 9:18 pm 0Likes

    Exact Quote =>It has been reported that IRNSS civilian service has a 10-metre location-tracking accuracy while the military service has a far better accuracy—( which I can bet should be sub 1 meter resolution) which will improve to few inches with GAGAN type of augmentation-

    Do remember that Indian GAGAN (GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation)which optimizes civilian GPS signal with 3 Indian satellites & many ground based repeaters have resolution of 1.5 meter in horizontal plane!

    Indian IRNSS military resolution apply traditional Carrier-Phase Enhancement which provides it a resolution of 20-30 cm!

    In future, there is plan to bring the resolution to 1-2 inch with looped real time relative kinematic positioning

  • by MT
    Posted March 17, 2016 9:20 pm 0Likes

    Dont divert from topic–

    Name me 1 bomb blast carried out by hindus in Pakistan??

    in India, atleast 50+ Pakistani/Punjabi terrorist are killed yearly!

    In last 1 week 3 Lashkar/jaish terrorist were shot dead whose Intel on infiltration into India from Pak Punjab/gujarat was provided by Pakistani NSA!

  • by SP
    Posted March 17, 2016 9:30 pm 0Likes

    In 1998 Hindu fundamentalists proposed that a new Goddess temple be built at Pokharan, 50 km from the site of the atomic bomb tests that were conducted in April of that year. According to their program this would be the 53rd example of Shaktipeeths (seats of strength, literally Goddess power) of Hindu preeminence. (Another power center is the new temple to Rama in Ayodhya, being built on the site of the Babri mosque, destroyed by a Hindu mob in December 1992.) Some suggested that radioactive sand from the test site should be distributed as prasad, the Hindu sacrament, but cooler heads vetoed that idea. Some Hindu fundamentalists also believe that ancient Indians actually possessed atomic weapons, which they call AOm-made@ bombs.

    The Indian military helps to fuel this religious enthusiasm by having named its long range missile after the Vedic god of fire Agni.

    Bombay, now renamed Mumbai because of Hindutva. (Madras is now called Chennai and Hindu nationalists want to change all English street names to Hindi and do not want their children to attend English medium schools.)

  • by MT
    Posted March 17, 2016 9:39 pm 0Likes

    How does indian internal politics bother pak u??Every country renamed their colonial cities to native names.
    Moreover chennai is tamil name and mumbai is marathi.
    India officially declared no first use policy.
    Agni means fire in sanskrit.

    Truth is exactly opposite.its Pakistani terrorist who enter india and bomb us but there are no fanatic hindu bombing pakistan in name of their god

  • by SP
    Posted March 17, 2016 9:46 pm 0Likes

    How many Indian spies on sabotage missions has Pakistan jailed? How many RAW trained terrorists has Pakistan arrested? How much funding has Indian provided to Baloch separatists and TTP? Who created and supported Mukti Bahini? Turning truth into falsehood and falsehood into truth has become your specialism. You hindu fanatics would put Himmler to shame.

  • by MT
    Posted March 17, 2016 10:00 pm 0Likes

    I m not talking about spies u moron.

    we have 100000-20000 pakistani sunni terrorist dead in india who came to kill kufr inspired by sunni faith and misinterpreted islam.

    Count me no of hindus camps who trained hindu terrorist & helped them cross border to kill muslim inspired by their religion

  • by SP
    Posted March 17, 2016 10:12 pm 0Likes

    Spies recruit terrorists among other things you moron. It does not matter if the terrorist is muslim or hindu what matters is which country he is working for. Terrorists have killed more people in Pakistan and caused more damage to Pakistan in 5 years than in all of Indian history. So who is the bigger terrorist Pakistan or India? Terrorism is a policy of the Hindu Fanatic state. How much damage did Mukti Bahini do to Pakistan? Who invented state sponsored terrorism in South Asia moron? Who used terrorism against Sri Lanka moron?

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 7:47 am 0Likes

    that sure is true. hinduvta india is a danger to itself, humanity, peace, and the world.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 7:48 am 0Likes

    I’m not convinced. try harder next time.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 7:51 am 0Likes

    He can’t talk against Hindu terrorism or cow meat. That agenda is not part of the “barking paper” handed out to him by his hindu captors.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 7:56 am 0Likes

    I’d like to count the fastly depleting number of brain cells in your head first to answer that.
    You really have no shame lying in the face when you know the kind of terrorism RSS is spreading in india, and indian leadership exporting terrorism into pakistan going to extremes to killing little children. Each and indian consulate in india is a terrorism cell training criminals and terrorists, paying out and financing them.

    This is indian official policy towards pakistan since 1947, but reinforced under modi, your self-adopted abu.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 8:16 am 0Likes

    Do you want me to show you pictures of uncircumcised hindus terrorists captured and sent to hell by pakistani army back in 2005, disguised with beards and all?
    do you want me to show you lectures of indian NSA telling kids how india is using terrorism against pakistan?
    listen boy, whatever you are, keep these fabrications to yourself and behind that line of the border. we are dealing with you for last 70 years or so. so please!

  • by MT
    Posted March 18, 2016 9:45 am 0Likes

    Keep making your own story about so called hindu terrorist.
    we have 100-500 punjabi sunni wahabi terrorist entering india in 2015.
    The no was approx 5000 in 2000’s yearly.

  • by MT
    Posted March 18, 2016 9:57 am 0Likes

    I live near RSS areas & those hindus are way peaceful people. Some of them join us on day of ashura.
    Shias have completely integrated in India.
    we share common love for our motherland. we are not like those blindfolded sunni who inbreed & continue to force their ideology on most of the peaceful hindus.

    We despite being less in nos are much well off than sunnis.
    Our shia brothers in kashmir were killed by your punjabi wahabi takfeeris.Our brothers in kashmir join army & protect our national sovereignty from wahabi terrorist.

    I have told you time & again that india can never support takfeeris terrorist. Those so called proof were thrown into garbage by your Ex NSA.
    Taliban kill you people bcoz you first used them as proxy & later bombed their areas with drones.

    If india had offensive RAW capabilities then we ll first eliminate Lashkar and jaish chief

  • by MT
    Posted March 18, 2016 10:04 am 0Likes

    Hard to educate a madrassa trained mind

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 11:00 am 0Likes

    A mentally enslaved RSS passout certainly can’t do that.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 11:05 am 0Likes

    I don’t care if they care about your sorry bottom to spare it from fire treatment. What i care about is india’s terrorism into Pakistan, taking it up as official state policy of funding and supporting terrorists.

    You belong to a terrorist nation that uses terrorism against school going kids.

    Spare me your shia-sunni bark. You are not a Shia and no you don’t support any shia or sunnis. You are simply an indian fasadi and full of hate for pakistan. Nothing else defines it better.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 11:09 am 0Likes

    If anything is actually a story, that’s the hindu media educating your depleting brain cells.

    Hinduism and the word violence goes hand in hand. I don’t think you need to think it over to know that. India is a living proof.

    You can stop reading from your barking paper to me now, because you’ve repeated that a hundred dozen times by now. I don’t hear anything new or of substance from you ever except trolling and cheap lines.

  • by nob
    Posted March 18, 2016 12:14 pm 0Likes

    note that the first suicide bomber was a tamil hindu/ a member of ltte
    the ramayana weight about 4 kg and it is full of violence.
    i don’t want to comment on religion but when you people do it,i can’t resist

  • by Sulayman
    Posted March 18, 2016 12:45 pm 0Likes

    I don’t know why Pakistan is so slow on space side. In the past SUPARCO was so active. But now we don’t see any considerable activity. Space intelligence and reconnaissance is an integral part of defence national security. Defence satellites role can be seen in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • by MT
    Posted March 18, 2016 4:47 pm 0Likes

    that’s why rss passout launched their 1st rocket in 1979 while high iq people still struggling for last 40 yrs & I don’t see pakistani slv before 2030

  • by MT
    Posted March 18, 2016 4:49 pm 0Likes

    Ltte were ethnic movement of tamil with no religious affiliates

  • by MT
    Posted March 18, 2016 4:52 pm 0Likes

    suparco flopped their missile program which led to import of korean nodong/ghauri & chinese M11/M18 aka Shaheen series.

    They were told to stop their R^D in 90s . So if they start again then it ll take 2 decades to make Slv

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 7:09 pm 0Likes

    haha…the only thing your big mouth has launched is utter BS.

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