SOURCE: ABHAY KESARKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Lack of modern fighter fleet and with no advance aerospace industrial ecosystem in the country to fall back on, Pakistani air force (PAF ) is fast limiting its self to two or three type of fighters to meet all its operational roles in the region, but that has not stopped PAF from initiating ” Project Azm ” under which top military planners of the PAF say will lead to the development of a first 5th generation fighter aircraft based out of its requirement to meet its future requirements.
Under ” Project Azm “, PAF wants its local universities and public sector companies to develop systems and sub-systems which ultimately can be used on a 5th generation fighter aircraft but there is clearly lack of any clarity if the aircraft devised under ” Project Azm ” will be fully developed locally from the scratch, which seems highly unlikely due to lack of infrastructure and aerospace ecosystem in the country to support such an ambitious project but also due to super ambitious timeline of 10-12 years which even an established aerospace giant will have difficulty meeting.
Defence and security analyst who follow PAF closely have said that Pakistani Air-force is closely monitoring and following the development of Chinese J-31 Stealth fighter jet project and that of Turkish TF-X Stealth fighter program and may pick one of the programs which can be inducted in near future when it is ready for production.
J-31 fighter aircraft already developed by a Chinese company to explore export market is already carrying out its developmental trials and is likely to enter into production much sooner, while Turkish TAI TF-X fighter aircraft will enter service only by 2030. both aircraft which are twin-engine air superiority fighter will be replacing the top-tier small batch of F-16s fighter aircraft which were inducted in PAF from the early 1980s on wards and fleet strength too might be limited in numbers.
PAF is also keen to pursue local development of a second 5th generation program which will be locally manufactured in Pakistan when production of JF-17 is completed. According to Defence and security analysts, it could be the development of a single-engined multi-role stealth fighter aircraft which will have a heavy influence of local systems and sub-system which are developed in Pakistan.
Rumors around is that China and Pakistan have agreed to develop a Stealth variant of JF-17, which is not only the cheapest route but will also ensure that Pakistan doesn’t have to incur a heavy developmental cost and major chuck could also be funded by Chinese aerospace company who want to make available a low-cost stealth fighter aircraft which can be exported, while PAF remains a launch customer of the product .