More than 50 Chinese and Pakistani fighter aircrafts completed the most comprehensive and “confrontational” two-week long joint exercises in northwestern China on Friday, a drill described by a military observer as “real-combat level”. The 15-day drill was the biggest joint air force exercise involving the Chinese and fighter aircrafts from a foreign country, the Chinese military said, adding it was also the most comprehensive in terms of equipment used and involved the most “complete combat unit”.
The large-scale Sino-Pak air exercise was held at an undisclosed location in northwestern China months after Indian and Pakistani air forces engaged in a dogfight near the Line of Control following Indian air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot. The annual joint training drill code-named “Shaheen (Eagle) VIII” was kicked off on August 23 and ended Friday with both sides practicing “…air superiority, suppression of ground targets, air attack and joint air defense training,” a Chinese air force statement carried by news website Thepaper.cn said.
Though an annual drill, this edition was the most comprehensive ever.
“This joint training has realised the integration and unification of all forces and various types of troops….They (the personnel) feel that the two sides are constantly working together, the command planning capability is getting stronger and stronger, and the actual combat atmosphere is more intense,” the statement said.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force dispatched J-10C, J-16 and early warning aircraft as well as ground detachments covering ground-to-air missile, radar, airborne landing and communication to join the training; the Pakistani air force dispatched multiple types of aircraft, including the JF-17 Thunder, Mirage and early warning aircraft. The air arm of the PLA Navy also deployed aircraft to the joint training.
“Pakistan dispatched the JF-17 Thunder and Mirage fighter jets, early warning aircraft and other ground troops, which was a mini version of the Pakistani air force given the types of weapons and equipment and number of services,” Senior Colonel Du Wenlong told China military online.
“Based on the training progress so far, the Pakistani side has rich real-combat experience, while the Chinese side boasts advanced weapon and equipment systems and various cutting-edge technologies,” Du said.
The biggest feature of this edition was that neither side was informed of the other’s situation during the exercise and had to adapt, for example, with the help of early warning aircraft.
The training was more confrontational than previous ones that followed a pre-arranged plan and was carried out in complicated environment where the troops were expected to overcome the impact of natural condition, Du said.
“Shaheen (eagle) VIII joint training features a keener sense of unfamiliarity and is very close to real-combat environment, with its indicators and plans all reaching the real-combat level,” Du said.
China and Pakistan have snug defence ties and they have begun upgrading their jointly developed JF-17 fighter jet.