PAF conducted 5,500 bombing runs in Fata since 2008

Published: November 14, 2011

Pakistani F-16's conducted 500 sorties with the DB-110 reconnaissance pods over FATA.

DUBAI: In a rare glimpse into Pakistan’s attempt to counter domestic terrorism from the air, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had flown more than 5,500 strike sorties over the country’s troubled FATA region since May 2008. Chief of PAF described some of the lessons learned at the Air Chiefs Conference in Dubai, Aviation International Times reported.

The need for good airborne reconnaissance was paramount, said Air Chief Marshall Rao Qamar Suleiman. When the Pakistan Army launched large-scale operations in the remote Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in August 2008, the PAF had to rely on Google Earth imagery when planning for air support missions, AIT report said.

However, by the time that the Army was ready to move against insurgents in the Swat Valley in May 2009, the PAF had acquired Goodrich DB-110 electro-optical reconnaissance pods for its F-16 fighters, together with the same company’s ground station for imagery exploitation. Intelligence analysts could now identify terrorist training camps, ammunition dumps and command and control facilities. Some of these targets were well camouflaged, and protected by bunkers, Air Chief Marshall Suleiman noted.

Two days before the ground offensive was launched, the PAF launched a series of interdiction missions, and followed that up with close air support throughout the six-month campaign. From the imagery collected by the PAF, the Army was also able to identify suitable landing zones for airdrops of commandos.

In these mountainous regions, airpower was best delivered from medium altitude by fast jets, PAF Chief was quoted as saying by the AIT. When the Army turned its attention to South Waziristan in October 2009, the PAF conducted a seven-day campaign in advance. By now, the service had added FLIR Systems Star Safire III EO/IR sensor ball to one of its C-130 transports. Army staff on board the C-130 was able to track the movement of terrorists at night, and radio manoeuvring instructions to soldiers on the ground.

PAF has completely overhauled its tactics and techniques to conduct of irregular warfare, ACM Suleiman said. All of the squadrons were put through a training program over a four-month period. Laser-guided bombs have been used in 80 per cent of PAF strikes, the PAF chief revealed. Avoiding collateral damage was a primary concern, he explained, “specially since we were engaging targets within our own country. We engage isolated structures only, away from populated areas.”

More than 10,600 bombs have been dropped, and 4,600 targets destroyed (A ratio of 1::2), he said. PAF has flown more than 500 F-16 sorties with the DB-110 pod, and 650 with the Star Safire EO/IR sensor on the C-130.

ACM Suleiman said that “we’ve broken the back of militants in FATA.” He said offensive military engagement could only accomplish “10 to 15 per cent” of the task of pacifying tribal areas. The rest must be done by dialogue, winning hearts and minds through economic development of these very poor regions, he said.

In his presentation, PAF Chief did not mention Selex Galileo Falco UAV. However, Pakistan was first customer for reconnaissance drone, which carries Anglo-Italian company’s own electro-optical/ infrared sensor ball. Suleiman told AIN there had been problems with UAV’s data link, caused partly by terrain masking. “Then we put in a relay station, and started flying it higher, so now we are using it more.”

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Nov 14, 2011 - 10:12PM

    This sounds very impressive.

    What about the AWACS from China and Sweden?


  • Usman
    Nov 15, 2011 - 12:45AM

    ““specially since we were engaging targets within our own country”

    tells you a lot about this country and its people


  • Roflcopter
    Nov 15, 2011 - 3:19AM

    “We engage isolated structures only, away from populated areas.”
    Good to hear that.


  • Asad
    Nov 15, 2011 - 3:26AM

    zero civilian casualties?


  • Ch Allah Daad
    Nov 15, 2011 - 3:27AM

    10,600 bombs dropped, 4600 target destroyed, 1150 sorties, hundreds of drone attacks, thousands of soldiers killed, millions of rounds fired, but only 10-15% job is done. Please mention whose back is broken. If its terrorists back, then why we are begging for negotiations.


  • Ch Allah Daad
    Nov 15, 2011 - 3:32AM

    If this is the sale pitch from our top brass (with such dismal performance) to sell their arms in international market, then I would be buying from Taliban.


  • Proud Baloch
    Nov 15, 2011 - 4:45AM

    What do you mean tells a lot about this country and its people. Ever been to Fata? its a no-man land occupied by people who consider people living in urban areas as aliens. I Grow up


  • Bharat R
    Nov 15, 2011 - 7:20AM

    Disappointing to see that the contempt of the Armed Forces for civilians is so high that we see the head of the Air Force bragging about the use of Air Power that clearly represents excessive use of force besides being known to contribute a fair degree to collateral damage, against the Pathan / Pashtun ethnic minority.


  • MarkH
    Nov 15, 2011 - 7:29AM

    What, were 95% of those runs a complete failure or something? Or is the criteria for being called a bombing run simply flying something that has the potential to drop one?

    5,500 real runs do not match current circumstances even slightly. The current militant group’s complaining would have come a long time ago. That means even if that number is correct, they certainly went out of their way to not attack a good number of militants. It wouldn’t be surprising considering “peace deal” allowing them to attack outside forces with assurance of being left alone by Pakistan.

    Sounds more like a very carefully worded statement with multiple intentions. It make it sound like they’ve been fighting them with intensity but, really, even if they didn’t actually take offensive action, they are technically not lying when they make this statement. Just like the criminals who aren’t convicted saying “there’s no proof that we did it” and it not being the same as them saying “I’m innocent.”


  • rehmat
    Nov 15, 2011 - 10:39AM

    You guys talk about huma=n rights in Kashmir. Let me tell you Indian army has NEVER bombed Jammu and Kashmir or for that matter any part of India


    Nov 15, 2011 - 4:20PM

    Indian Airforce jets, army choppers and artillery guns have never been used in Kashmir, North East or against Maoists. Infact, the air power rarely proves to be effective in counter-insurgency operations in any part of the world which Americans learnt in Vietnam war and presently in Afghanistan. Thousands of militants have been claimed to be killed by PAF but with little change in ground situation which indicates that the numbers killed would be much fewer than claimed.


  • Indian
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:07PM

    Two places in this article quote as follows :

    1) Avoiding collateral damage was a primary concern, he explained, “specially since we were engaging targets within our own country. We engage isolated structures only, away from populated areas.”
    2) ‘More than 10,600 bombs have been dropped, and 4,600 targets destroyed (A ratio of 1::2), he said. PAF has flown more than 500 F-16 sorties with the DB-110 pod, and 650 with the Star Safire EO/IR sensor on the C-130.’

    Can any Pakistani here explain me is this the very same Pakistan which alleges Indian army to have killed Indian civilians ( whom Pakistanis read only as Muslims ) in Kashmir???


  • Proud Baloch
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:11PM

    Because they do genocide and cover all their crimes up :P. Oh Cummon. Stop pretending you are some angel on earth and we some aliens. I know how India works. Recommend

  • Pundit
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:48AM

    If I were a pakistani I would hold my head in shame at reading the contents of this article.

    Is this what the APC announced ” Give Peace a Chance” mean?

    Is this what the average Paki citizen on the street starved of health,education and employment feeding the Paki establishment for?

    The official needs to be severely reprimanded.


  • Pundit
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:22AM

    Thats why guys the one day expense of the Air Force is about the same as the annual (2011) budget of paki Min of Health.

    I invite comments from Pakistani friends.


  • Tony Singh
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:35PM

    @Proud Baloch:
    And how does India work?


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