The changing geo political scenario of the Indian subcontinent and the growing military might of the Indian and Pakistan armed forces, it is likely that these two forces may clash with each other in near future. During the last eleven years, these two counties came dangerously close to the brink of a full scale conflict but managed to restrain themselves, rather committing themselves to a war.
Indian Airforce has always dreamt of maintaining complete superiority in this region, which is possessed by the Israeli Airforce. But with China’s massive air arm in the north and Pakistan’s highly professional airforce in the west, India considers its airforce as not adequately equipped to handle these both forces.
|Su-30MKIs preparing for engagement|
Pakistan Airforce on the other hand trains solely to maintain air superiority against the Indian Airforce. Having a great track record, it has always been a strong opponent against the Indian Airforce and have proved its worth from time to time. Starting from the Canberra kill in 1958, PAF proved its mettle in 1965 and 1971 wars due to which IAF never ventured to cross the international border during 1988, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2008 military standoffs.
|F-16s maintaining vigilance in the sky|
But in the current scenario, when Pakistan is hit hard by unstable political and economical structure, external terrorism, natural disasters and an inadequate irrigation system, IAF might consider it as a golden opportunity to carry out any misadventure against Pakistan.
In any upcoming limited or full scale conflict the major anticipated participants of both the forces will play a major role in the conflict. Apart from the capabilities of the aircraft, it is up to the pilot training as well as maintenance and serviceability of the aircraft which can be a decisive factor in their respective mission. In terms of sophistication and capabilities the ranking of the combat aircraft of the subcontinent is conducted as:
Su-30 MKI: Deemed as the best aircraft of the subcontinent this aircraft would likely be amongst the first ones to cross the border. India's Su-30MKI multi-role fighter-bomber is one of the best 4-5 generation aircraft currently available. Its range can be extended from 3,000 kilometers to 5,200 kilometers with only one air refueling. The extended range capability along with its outstanding payload capacity was envisaged as the most important asset for India allowing to perform deep strike attacks in Pakistan.
|Su-30MKI taking off|
IAF currently fields ~ 100 Su-30 MKI aircraft. These aircraft can track fifteen aerial targets at a time and can engage four aerial targets at a single time. Detection range for the Su-30MKI is 200 km. Its standard loadout is R-77 BVR missiles and R-73 WVR missiles, whereas it is compatible with R-27, ASTRA and Python-5 missiles.
|Su-30MKIs in close formation|
Its main feature which singles it out as one of the deadliest aircraft is its Thrust Vector Control capability due to which it can engage effectively in both BVR combat and turning dogfights.
F-16C/D Block 52 Advance Falcon: PAF fields the latest Fighting Falcons rolling off the Lockheed Martin's production line in Fort Worth, Texas, the advanced Block 52 version. This production series represent the largest configuration change in the F-16 history, offering additional fuel and payload capacity, new avionics and sensors, color cockpit displays with enhanced pilot/vehicle interfaces.
|PAF F-16C Block-52|
PAF currently fields 4 F-16C/D Block-52 Vipers whereas the delivery of the remaining fourteen aircraft would be completed by December 2010. These aircraft can track more than ten aerial targets at a time and can engage four aerial targets at a single time. Range for the F-16 Block-52 is 100 km for MiG-21 sized aerial targets. Its standard loadout is AIM-120C(5) BVR missiles and AIM-9L/M Sidewinder WVR missiles, whereas it is compatible with IRIS(T) missiles. Thus it can engage in both offensive and defensive combat scenarios.
|F-16C Block-52 on a CAP mission|
F-16A/B Block-15 (MLU-III) Fighting Falcon: Since 1983 till to date, the F-16 Block-15 multirole fighter has been the trademark of the PAF and have lead the Airforce in various conflicts and military standoff. At present PAF operates 43 F-16A/B Block-15 aircraft. The F-16A/B fleet is to be upgraded with MLU (Mid-Life Update) modification kits and Falcon Star Structural Service Life Enhancement kits by Turkish Aerospace Industries starting in September 2010 at a rate of 1 per month. Four F-16A/B are already undergoing upgrade in the U.S. for delivery in 2011.
|PAF F-16A Block-15|
The PAF F-16s will receive a mid-life upgrade that primarily involves replacement of avionics and structural modifications bringing them close to Block 50 standards. The MLU upgrade kits will include: APG-68(V)9 radar; Embedded GPS/INS (EGI); Link-16 data link; APX-113 Advanced Identify Friend or Foe (AIFF); Color Cockpit with Color Moving Map; ALQ-211(V)9 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS) Pod; Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) Cockpit and External Lighting; Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod; Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS); Reconnaissance Pod capability; improved avionics systems; JDAM capability; EGBU capability; AIM-120 AMRAAM capability; and AGM-84 Harpoon capability. While many of the avionics systems and capabilities are common with the new Block 52s and the MLU, some significant differences remain between the MLU F-16 Block 15s and the new PAF Block 52s: there are no improvements to the Block 15s mission range and loiter time; there are no engine improvements; and, there are no improvements to payload capacity. Overall, the MLU program will extend the service life of PAF’s original F-16 aircraft and very significantly increase the capability of the PAF to conduct Close Air Support and night precision attack missions. Thus armed with state of the art weapons’ and avionics suite, the F-16 MLU-III could fight any aircraft of the Indian Airforce maintaining the same level of threat which the Indians faced during the 80s and 90s.
|F-16A on a CAP mission|
MiG-29 Fulcrum: The MiG-29 known as Baaz (Hawk) is the IAF's dedicated air superiority fighter and forms the second line of defense for the IAF after the Su-30MKI.
The IAF operates 69 MiG-29s, all of which are currently being upgraded to the MiG-29SMT standard. These aircraft can track ten aerial targets at a time and can engage two aerial targets at a single time. Detection range for the MiG-29 is 80 km for MiG-21 sized aerial targets. Its standard loadout is R-77 BVR missiles and R-73 WVR missiles, whereas it is compatible with R-27, ASTRA and Magic-II missiles. This is enough for long range first see first shoot engagements as well as close combat engagements.
|IAF MiG-29 taking off with an Il-76 waiting for its turn|
Dassault Mirage-2000H: After Su-30MKI, the Mirage-2000H forms the nucleus of its strike aircraft. In air to air combat role the aircraft has the detection range of ~ 100 km for MiG-12 sized targets, and can engage targets effectively from the range of 60 km. These aircraft are equipped with Super R-530D/F missiles with a maximum range of 37 km and Magic-II missiles with an effective range of 10 km though it can be fired at a target as far as 15 km. This capability makes it a defensive fighter with offensive strike capability, and will require escorts from aircraft such as MiG-21 Bison, MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-30MKI all which have better air to air capability than the Mirage-2000.
JF-17 Thunder: PAF has always been very careful in selecting an aircraft as it cannot afford to make any mistake. When it was deprived of any potent weapon system, it joined a project with China to develop its own high tech aircraft, which would be easy to maintain and procured in large numbers. This resulted in the JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter. JF-17 was tailored to meet the requirements of the PAF. It possess’ the capabilities of engaging in offensive aerial combat missions as well can defend itself against the top of the line fighters by IAF. It can also fly a wide array of strike missions, thus supplementing PAF strike platforms either flying as an armed escort or a strike package. It can manage up to 40 targets, monitor up to 10 of them and simultaneously fire on two BVR targets. The detection range for aerial targets of MiG-21 sized targets is 105 km (85 km in look-down mode). Surface sea targets can be detected at up to 135 km. Armed with SD-10 BVR missiles, it can engage offensive against any front line enemy aircraft.
MiG-21 Bison: A highly upgraded version of the original MiG-21, the Bison poses a threat to the PAF aircraft due to its ability to track and fire the AA-12 Adder on first look first shoot basis and utilize the AA-11 Archer coupled with HMS in close combat situation. The Bison also has secondary strike capabilities using PGMs and conventional armament. In terms of capability, it equals the MiG-29 in interception capabilities, and having a small RCS is expected to be the most numerous aircraft faced by PAF in the war zone.
Mirage ROSE-I: Mirage ROSE-I (Bandit) is a dedicated air superiority fighter with a specialization in SEAD missions. These Mirages are specialized in intruding in enemy air space, engage CAP fighters and attack enemy SAM and AAA sites using Brazilian MAR missiles as well as French Durrandel weapon system. The aircraft have similar aerial combat capabilities as the JF-17 Thunder and are regarded as a serious threat to the Indians.
F-7PG: F-7PGs form the primary aerial defense units of Pakistan along with the F-7MP fleet. Whereas F-16s, JF-17s and Mirage ROSE-I fighters are multi mission aircraft, the F-7PG is dedicated air defense aircraft with limited strike capabilities. Armed with a combination of SD-10 and AIM-9L Sidewinders, the F-7PG can engage targets effectively from the range of 60 km, can simultaneously 8 targets and engage one target a single time. But using fire and forget missiles, it can rapidly engage 4 aircraft within 6 seconds gaining advantage in air combat against strike elements of the Indian Airforce. The aircraft is an excellent dogfighter and can stand against almost all the IAF fighters.
|F-7PG Skybolt II Interceptor|
Mirage ROSE-II/III: These special Mirages consist as the core of PAF’s dedicated strike aircraft. The special thing about these aircraft is that they have a stand off strike capability of 350-400 km, and are tailored to deliver stand off missiles and bombs. Though they retain the 30 mm DEFA cannons along with AIM-9L Sidewinder for self defense, they require to be operated under proper radar cover with fighter escorts.
F-7MP: The backbone of the PAF is the F-7MP and along with the F-7PG forms the primary air defense fighter aircraft. Flying under own radar cover, and supplemented by AWACS, PAF F-7MPs are equipped to take out any enemy aircraft in quick succession. Equipped with SD-10, PL-9 and AIM-9L Sidewinders, these aircraft can engage and fire at four targets in six to ten seconds. If pitted in turning dogfights these aircraft are superior against MiG-21, MiG-23/27, and Jaguar, while have an upper hand against the MiG-29 and Mirage-2000 in certain flight parameters.
|F-7MP Skybolt Interceptor|
MiG-27 & Jaguar: The SEPECAT Jaguar known as Shamsher and the MiG-27 known as Bahadur serve as the IAF's primary ground attack force. The IAF currently operates 139 Jaguars and over 100 MiG-27s. Both of these aircraft requires an armed escort as they are easy meat for the prowling F-7MPs and PGs. These aircraft tend to fly very low with good jamming capabilities but risking themselves to anti aircraft fire and low level SAMs. It was a MiG-27 shot down in Kargil by a shoulder fired SAM, which forced IAF to withdraw these aircraft from the arena and leave the job for the high performance Mirage-2000H aircraft.
Mirage-III/V: Nearing the end of their service lives, the Mirage-III/V fleet consists of some 100 aircraft, which have the capability to provide low level CAP over VPs/VAs. These aircraft can come in handy when engaging SSMs, ALCMs and attack aircraft such as Jaguar and MiG-27 of the Indian Armed Forces.
PAKISTAN AIRFORCE LINES OF DEFENCE
PAF on Red Alert will form four major lines of defenses:
- Pakistan Air Defense System would intercept any thing flying within moments notice using HQ-2B and HQ-9 (FT-2000) SAM units;
- BARCAP: Top of the line available PAF aircraft would conduct barrier combat air patrol near the border to intercept any incoming raid. Fighters on CAP will be diverted whereas fighters on alert would take off immediately to join their stations. F-16C/Ds, F-16A/Bs., Mirage ROSE-I and JF-17 Thunders would be the premier aircraft for BARCAP missions;
|F-16s performing BARCAP mission|
- CAP: F-7MP and F-7PG would form the third line of defense when they will intercept any Indian Aircraft/Missile which has penetrated the first two lines of defenses. These aircraft would be patrolling near the VPs/VAs;
|F-7MP over Islamabad performing CAP|
- Low Level CAP and Integrated Gun Missile Defense System: F-7MPs, Mirage-IIIEPs, A-5Cs, FT-5s, K-8s, T-37s would provide low level CAP armed with Sidewinders. On the final leg approach to the target, medium to low level SAMs and anti aircraft fire would form the last line of defense.
|F-7MP taking off for a low level CAP over VP/VA|
ADVANTAGE FACED BY PAF’S DEFENDERS
- They will be operating under their own radar cover;
- They would be receiving live battlefield radar images by the AEW&C and AWACS, thus not using their own A/A Radar and providing less exposure to the enemy’s RWR;
- They can utilize the terrain to its optimum capacity;
- They would have one aim in mind i.e. to intercept enemy missiles and aircraft.
Indian Attack Aircraft once lured into combat or attacked by HQ-2/9 will definitely shed their external ordinance thus mission failed for them. This is the reason that they will send in dedicated SEAD aircraft along with Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs), and other long range standoff weapons, supplemented by Prithvi and Agni series of Surface to Surface Missiles (SSMs), to clear a path for their strike fighters to hit important targets.
IAF AIRCRAFT AND MISSILES EXPECTED IN THE INITIAL RAID
Dedicated Indian SEAD aircraft would be Su-30MKI, Mirage-2000 and MiG-21 Bison aircraft. These aircraft would be supplemented by Medium Range and Battle Field Surface to Surface Missiles, as well as Long Range Anti Radiation Missiles (ARMs).
|Su-30s near Pakistan Border|
The missiles fielded by IAF in this attack are anticipated to be:
- PJ-10 Brahmos
- KH-59 ME/MK
- Novator KS-172 AAM/L
1700 HOURS: INITIAL SIGNS OF ENEMY RAID
|PAF on Red Alert|
During Red Alert, our air defense radars would constantly monitor all Indian Airforce activities near the border. The first signs of any trouble in a full scale anticipated campaign are expected to be long range anti radiation missiles targeting our aerial assets i.e. AWACS/AEW&C, Radars and SAM systems as well as short to medium range Surface to Surface Missiles targeting our VPs/Vas (Vital Points/ Vital Areas). These missiles would be fired from inside the Indian Border (max 300 km for BRAHMOS and min 70 km Kh-31P/A) i.e. IAF aircraft would not intrude our airspace to attack target, it will use the techniques of targeting softening before risking its jets inside a fully alert hostile airspace. Similarly IAF ELINT aircraft would move near the border or within 300 km near the border to jam PAF Radars. It can be speculated that IAF will risk some of its Su-30MKI, MiG-29 and MiG-21 Bison to engage BARCAP PAF fighters.
|IAF MiG-29 and MiG-21 fighters in Battle Formation|
1702 HOURS: PAKISTAN AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM’S FIRST REACTIONS
Indian Missiles would be detected at a max range of 450 km and a min range of 70 km by the Pakistan Integrated Air Defense System, indicating the declaration of a full scale conflict. Four major reactions, would simultaneously take place:
- The moment Indian Missiles would be detected on the radar scope Pakistan’s instant reaction would be to launch their Shaheen I and II missiles in three to four waves targeting all Indian Military Installations lying within the range of 3,500 km, followed by the slower Ghauri I, II and III missiles, which would keep the Indian Air Defense occupied.
|With a deafening roar, the Shaheen series of missile blasts off|
- Simultaneously all PAF and PADS platforms (including Radars and Aircraft) would deploy their jamming and anti jamming equipment, as well as Electronic Countermeasure Systems and Electronic Jamming Systems which would certainly effect the accuracy of the Indian Missiles.
|F-16 carrying out jamming of enemy missiles|
- The Indian missiles would have to face four lines of defense before reaching their targets:
|Pakistani SAMs goes in action against the intruders|
All PAF fighters conducting BARCAP near the border (which includes F-16s, F-7MP/PGs, Mirage ROSE-1 and JF-17 Thunders) would intercept these missiles as well as other IAF intruders at their BARCAP stations with WVR and BVR missiles and if possible use their in built guns/cannons.
|IAF Strike Force|
Those missiles which cross this barrier would be greeted by CAP fighters near the VPs/VAs (F-7MP/PG) which would again intercept these missiles using a mix of long range to medium range AAMs as well as guns/cannons.
|Mirage ROSE-I downs an Indian MiG-27|
The final batch of missiles which crosses the third line of defense would be greeted with the final line of defense i.e. the integrated gun/missile system at the VPs/VAs which contains a variety of low level to medium level SAMs, computerized radar controlled ack ack guns, rapid firing medium to heavy ack ack guns and low level interceptors (F-7s, Mirages, A-5s, FT-5s, K-8s) armed with WVR missiles.
|F-16 downs an Indian Su-30MKI|
India on the other hand will use its long range ballistic missiles which would tie our air defense units. Since IAF missiles comprises of a single stage they would be easy to intercept using BVRAAMs and SAMs, whereas PAF ALCMs are terrain hugging with semi stealth capability and Pakistan’s Shaheen series of missiles changes their trajectories several times and splits in several re-entry vehicles so that one missile can hit several targets. This makes them difficult to intercept.
|Shaheen Missile Strikes|
However the supersonic PJ-10 Brahmos will create some problems for the Pakistani defenses as they will have very less time to react and any error is unacceptable.
17:08 HOURS: PAKISTAN’S COUNTER AIR STRIKES
What is to be followed by the initial strikes by ballistic missiles on all Indian military and strategic installations would be the counter air strikes flown by Mirage ROSE-II/III, F-16D Block-52, F-16B MLU-III and JF-17 Thunder aircraft. These strikes would take off at that time when the Indian missiles and fighters would be engaged at the first and second line of defenses.
|Raad ALCM Delivery by Mirage ROSE-II|
PAF fighters would then attack all IAF FOBs, SAM sites and military installations using standoff weapons under their own radar cover. With all IAF fighters and air defenses tied up with defending their VPs/VAs against Pakistani missile attacks, and other fighters trying to push in to clear a path for their attack, PAF strike formations would start expending their PGM/ALCM while still in Pakistani territory.
|Raptor-II PGM Delivery by Mirage ROSE-III|
1720 HOURS: INITIAL RESULTS OF ENEMY ATTACKS
The attack was intense and the results were disastrous for both sides.
Pakistan Armed & Strategic Installations:
- 30-40% of Pakistan Armed & Strategic Installations would be reported hit by Indian Missiles.
- 2-3 out of 6 AWACS & AEW&C aircraft would be reported to be hit by Indian Missiles.
- 10-20 air defense fighters would be reported hit in clash against IAF intruding aircraft.
|F-16A meets MiG-29 meets head on|
Indian Armed & Strategic Installations:
- 30-40% of Indian Armed & Strategic Installations would be reported hit by Pakistani Missiles.
- 2 out of 2 AWACS would be hit by Pakistani missiles.
- 40-50 IAF aircraft would be reported hit after engaging PAF fighters and HQ-9 SAM units.Nearly all IAF forward bases as well as bases lying within 300 km from the border would receive hits by PAF PGM/ALCM and Shaheen I Missiles.
|MiG-29 ready to be shot down|
1730 HOURS: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
With 10-20 PAF aircraft lost, and 40-50 IAF aircraft lost, and all major operational bases on both sides damaged, this will be the main time for both air forces to exploit the timely radar gaps and lapses.
|F-16A goes for the intruding Jags|
With PAF’s air defense fighters would be providing maximum coverage to VP/VAs and flying BARCAP, PAF’s access to the war zone would be quicker as compared to IAF. This will make way for PAF’s second attack wave, which would start to roll down the runway, to deliver their ordinance at that time when the first wave would be in the process of PGM/ALCM deliver.
|F-16 downs the Indian intruders|
Returning wave could also be turned quickly after reloading and rearming, depending upon the damage done to the base. The thing in PAF’s favour is that they keep their aircraft widely spread and can utilize the motorway located near the war zone, as well as small satellites, civil airports, and airstrips, due to which their operational capabilities would not be seriously hampered. This will provide us with the advantage of operating near the war zone and reacting much quicker as compared to the IAF.
|F-7PG downs an Indian MiG-27|
Thus will start a shuttle of delivering PGM/ALCM in regular intervals so as not let IAF regroup on the FOBs. Similarly Pakistani missiles would again target main IAF installations so as to keep the job of the aircraft and air defenses extremely hard.
|Mirages on an Anti Ship Mission|
IAF on the other hand will initially station MiG-29/MiG-21 Bison aircraft at their FOBs which will be engaged defending their own base from the Pakistani PGM/ALCM and Ballistic Missile attacks. With no PAF aircraft physically crossing the border and with the main IAF formations busy in defending themselves from the Pakistani missile attack, IAF losses would tend to be greater than PAF.
|Falcon downs Fulcrum|
1800 HOURS: START OF THE CONVENTIONAL WAR
With three out of six AWACS/AEW&C systems intact, PAF still would be in a position to provide early warning of Indian Aerial Activities within 300-400 km distance from the border.
|Mirage ROSE-IIs going in for a strike mission|
IAF will definitely try to conduct long range strike missions using Mirage-2000, Su-30MKI, Jaguars and MiG-27s. But again, as the raid will be detected within 300-400 km of the border, PAF air defenses will be prepared to take on against them.
|IAF Jag pushing in with two MiG-21 escorts|
IAF attack aircraft will be facing F-16s, F-7MP/PGs JF-17s and Mirage ROSE-Is flying BARCAP missions and F-7MP/PGs and Mirages in flying CAP missions near the VPs/VAs. The last line of defense would be F-7MP fighters supplemented by Sidewinder/IRIS-T equipped FT-5s, Mirage-IIIEPs, K-8s and T-37s. Apart from them PAF’s integrated gun missile system and high level SAM systems would also make their job much tougher.
|Caught by CAPing F-7PGs and JF-17s|
Being low in ballistic missiles and PGM/ALCM both Pakistan and India would cease using those missiles with time, and would start the conventional war by delivering weapons as close as possible to their respective targets. Whereas IAF fighters would require time to regroup, PAF fighters would constantly pin down all IAF forward bases as not to let IAF make good use of them (Similar like the B-57s performed during the ’65 and ’71 wars, but this time delivering their ordinance from standoff ranges).
|F-16s on a strike mission|
PAF drones (Uqaab & Falco) would then intrude into Indian Airspace to provide live reconnaissance of the remaining air defenses as well as the damage done to the Forward Indian Armed Installations, especially their bases. Thus PAF can devise their strategies on the bases of the damage done on the Indian Forward Bases.
|F-7PG on a CAP mission|
PAF aircraft would be readily available for the close support of the Pak Army on all sectors, especially the Mirages and JF-17 Thunders which have the capability of aerial refueling. Thus Pakistan Airforce has the capability of obtaining aerial superiority within the first hour of a conventional Indian attack.