The Jacobabad airport which is also known as PAF Shahbaz, which is a Forward Operational Base for the Pakistani Air Force and which operates Pakistan’s newest F-16 Block 52s has been closed down for Civilian traffic effective from 27th June till 31st December 2019.

PAF Shahbaz is barely 200 km away from the International border inland travel distance and few minutes in air time distance with the Indian state of Rajasthan and in past acted as a fully operational Forward airbase during wartime’s. Post Balakot airstrikes by IAF deep inside Pakistan. PAF has closed down its airspace for civilian traffic from the Indian side and also has maintained local propaganda that only a few trees and crows were killed in Indian air strike yet it continues to upgrade it forwards airbase with modern bunkers and new air defense systems.

PAF Shahbaz was leased to the US under terms of an agreement that the Allied Forces can use these for search and rescue missions. American military aircraft, gunship helicopters, and the US-led Allied troops were based at the Jacobabad air base for nearly a decade and since early 2002, the Americans had done extensive construction and repair work at Jacobabad, and installed radar equipment.

Nearly 40,000 metric tons of concrete have been used since 2002 to renovate the base and upgrade its compound wall and build air-conditioned facilities to keep American troops and aircraft. After US withdrawals, Civilian air traffic was reopened but the recent announcement to close the military-civilian facility for commercial traffic hints that PAF is carrying out more upgrades to facility left behind by American forces and is wary of a counter-attack from the Indian air force which now seems to have been heading to paranoia levels even after complete closure of its airspace to India.

PAF has been trying to hide its F-16 fleet all over Pakistani airbase and is not shying away from keeping them at Civilian airport facilities. Post Balakot air strike, PAF had tried to enter Indian air space and fired its long-range C-120-5 BVRAAMs at Indian fighter jets from its own airspace voiding a long term agreement with arch-rivals of not firing weapons at each others aircraft if there are no airspace violations. With the change in rules of engagement, IAF has been testing out newly acquired long-range air to air missile at its facility and PAF fears IAF might try to target its forward airbase or its aircraft in further retaliation.

While Pakistani military claims only one crow and few trees were knocked down in the air strikes by India, yet it has been demanding from India in writing that it will not carry out any further airstrikes in Pakistan for it to open its airspace for civilian traffic.

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