Pakistan Bolsters Air Force with SAAB AWACS Aircraft, Surpasses Indian AWACS Fleet
Pakistan Bolsters Air Force with SAAB AWACS Aircraft, Surpasses Indian AWACS Fleet

Lahore: Pakistan has quietly bolstered its military capabilities by introducing the SAAB-2000 ARI Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWACS) aircraft into its Air Force. This move brings the total number of AWACS aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force to 9. The latest addition, bearing the serial number 23058, was officially inducted into the Pakistani Air Force in January.

In comparison, the Indian Air Force (IAF) operates a fleet of five AWACS aircraft, consisting of three Russian IL-76 Falcon AWACS and two Embraer Netra early warning aircraft. With this development, Pakistan's Air Force now surpasses the Indian Air Force in terms of AWACS capabilities. Additionally, Pakistan already possesses the Chinese ZDK03 Karakoram Eagle AWACS.

The inclusion of SAAB aircraft in January marks a significant enhancement for the Pakistani Air Force. According to reports from Eurasian Times, several aircraft, including SAAB, were added to the Pakistani Air Force fleet during this period. Other notable additions include the Chengdu J-10 CE Dragon multirole fighter aircraft and C-130H Hercules airlifters. AWACS aircraft are equipped with long-range radar systems, enabling them to provide crucial battlefield control by furnishing real-time information about enemy air assets during combat.

Pakistan's procurement of AWACS aircraft dates back to 2006 when the first deal was struck. Initially, the Pakistan Air Force had signed a contract worth US$1.15 billion for six AWACS, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the number was later reduced to four following a devastating earthquake. In 2012, three out of the four AWACS were destroyed in a terrorist attack on the Mihas airbase, with one completely destroyed and the remaining two severely damaged. However, the Pakistan Air Force managed to restore the damaged aircraft internally. The AWACS were first utilized against India on February 27, 2019, when the Pakistani military targeted an Indian Brigade Headquarters and other installations in Nowshera using SAAB AWACS.

The procurement of AWACS aircraft from Sweden has not been without controversy. India had previously raised diplomatic objections against the sale of these aircraft to the Swedish company. In May 2020, Saab, the Swedish defense company, disclosed that it had secured the AWACS deal with an undisclosed buyer for US$160.5 million, with deliveries scheduled between 2020 and 2023. It is widely speculated that the unnamed buyer is Pakistan. The new ARI serial numbers allocated to the Pakistan Air Force are '20-057' and '23-058'.

AWACS aircraft serve as critical command and control platforms for airborne combat operations. They gather real-time intelligence in the air and relay it to ground-level command centers. Their mobility and advanced surveillance capabilities make them difficult targets for anti-radiation missiles. With their long-range detection capabilities, AWACS aircraft provide a comprehensive 360-degree view of the airspace, allowing them to track multiple aircraft simultaneously and relay their movements to the Air Force in real-time.

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