Kamra base attack: some thoughts

Published: August 18, 2012
The writer is an aviation enthusiast and runs an independent website on PAF www.PAFwallpapers.com

The writer is an aviation enthusiast and runs an independent website on PAF www.PAFwallpapers.com

On the night of August 15, militants pounded the heart of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Base Minhas situated at Kamra — the place where the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), a leading aviation and defence production centre of Pakistan is located.

It was a well-planned attack that was precisely executed and skilfully targeted. Unlike most of the earlier attacks on Pakistani forces, the targets were not soldiers. The terrorists adopted the same mission profile that they used in the attack on PNS Mehran on May 22, 2011. They were aided by modern equipment like night vision goggles for better situational awareness at night. This time, terrorists took advantage of strategic surprise by attacking on the 27th of Ramazan; the Arabs did the same with Israelis in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

The Kamra attack raises two major questions: why the Minhas Air Force Base? And why attack air surveillance systems only?

Minhas is one of the most important airbases of the PAF. The major part of its geographic location is shared by the PAC, which comprises four factories: the aircraft manufacturing factory, avionics production factory, Mirage repair factory and aircraft rebuild factory. These factories build, repair and overhaul major weapons systems of the PAF.

Minhas is home to two operational fighter squadrons, a search and rescue squadron and an air-surveillance squadron comprising the Saab-2000 Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AEW&C). Various villages are situated on the outskirts of the base. The main road of the PAC, on which all four factories are located, was open to the public until the suicide attack in 2007. These reasons made Minhas a prized target.

Just like the P-3 Orions of Pak Navy that were destroyed at Mehran, the Saab-2000 AEW&C aircraft are very expensive air-surveillance systems. They provide battlefield pictures, information about land, air or sea enemy targets and enhance situation awareness of the PAF combat fleets by sharing target information.

The Saab-2000 AEW&C is not a system to be used in the ongoing fighting in Fata. The long-range, high-endurance and deep radar coverage capability of the Saab-2000 AEW&C can challenge India’s air superiority in the region. For India, achieving air superiority without getting the best of such air-surveillance systems is not possible. Air battles of today and of the future will not entirely rely on well-equipped fighter units penetrating enemy airspace. The network centric system of war, which includes AEW&C systems sharing battlefield information with fighter units, ground units and battleships, will form the order of battle. AEW&C systems are not much of a threat to militants. The question to ponder upon is: are the terrorists attacking Pakistan’s AEW&C and surveillance systems at the behest of another country? This takes state sponsoring of terrorism to a whole new level. It is a manifestation of sub-conventional warfare. What would Pakistani decision-makers do to counter this strategic nightmare?

To address these challenges, Pakistani armed forces have to beef up the security of its military installations. Particularly, the bases with force multiplier systems and air-surveillance systems should be given extra security. The military bases with residential areas on their outskirts need to be monitored on a routine basis. In the present ongoing security situation, we cannot be relaxed at any time. Multilayered security should be made possible in all areas of bases because one thing is for sure: the attackers don’t use the front door anymore.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (44)

  • Anwar
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:22PM

    Only the Jews could have done this. The planning is too good and shows level of sophistication to do this.. They have super powerful organisation to do the work. As we all know Jews are masters of the black arts and can use Muslims against Muslims.


  • Awans
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:24PM

    The writer definitely seems to be from the plains of Punjab or Hazara region like me where my fellows are in denial that Taliban even exist and he conveniently blamed India for the attack that is the easiest scape goat in every scenario. I am thankful to Mr Najam that this time he was generous enough not to blame Israel and America. Also just visit Amazon.com right now and so called highly sophisticated Night vision goggles are easily available for the public for as low as less than 100 dollars but Terrorists can buy them but our Very Very Poor Army dont have a budget at all to buy any Night vision goggles and infrared cameras.


  • Nadir
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:24PM

    Just more sexier to believe that the whole world is conspiring against us. Continue to live in denial, do nothing about the taliban, in the meantime the Pakistani body count is expanding and the state has ceded sovereignty to murderous thugs.


  • faraz
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:27PM

    A terrorist attack is a tactical operation; it can’t achieve strategic surprise


  • Shahid
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:29PM

    Clearly the idea that terrorists can’t attack with the goal of maximizing human and/or financial loss with psychological effect of attacking large installations is very remote. I mean, it’s really difficult to imagine isn’t it, that the self propelled, religiously driven TTP attacks with the sole goal of damaging the most expensive equipment on the tarmac ($866 million for the Saab-2000 deal), since maximizing human loss on a wide airbase and facility – attacking at night – wasn’t really an achievable goal? Sounds really remote. Must be India trying to eliminate airborne early warning systems. I shall now go out on a limb and blame the Hinjews. Great international collaboration, attack increases the pressure of NWA operation, India gets the AWACS, Israel gets the laugh and the big players, Mozambique and Burkina Faso have psychologically damaged the morale of the great Fort of Islam.


  • A J Khan
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:45PM

    The author has gone to the crux of the matter. Such aircraft has no effect on the Talibans, but it is definitely more important to someone who would like to deny Pakistan the air-surveillance capabilities.
    TTP are mercenaries and their services can be hired by any one.They had been providing suicide bombers to private parties for settling personal disputes. (Suicide attack at the house of MPA in Bhakkar)
    In the present case TTP is seen working for India. Please don’t believe them when they talk of Islam. They are a cult followed by armed gangsters and criminals.


  • Arijit Sharma
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:46PM

    Why target maritime surveillance aircraft ? Here is a possibility. L-e-T and their comrades may be planning a second sea-borne coastal attach on India possibly with homegrown chemical weapons which will lead to a catastrophic conflict in the sub-continent. They fear that the surveillance aircraft may detect them and thwart them from launching an attack on India.

    ( The are videos that show the Taliban testing out some kind of a toxic chemical on an animal )


  • Shakeel
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:47PM

    Mr. Awan and Mr. Nadir seem to have a point but that needs further elaboration, Would you Mr, Awan and Mr. Nadir please elaborate a little more.


  • Shakeel
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:49PM

    Mr. Awan and Mr. Nadir seem to have a point but that needs further elaboration, Would you Mr, Awan and Mr. Nadir please elaborate a little more.Recommend

  • sid
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:55PM

    By the writers logic India should have attacked pakistan by now……………..

    Why would India attack Pakistan………annexation(hypothetically) One poor country becoming more poor………..India is full of problems slowing economy,social inequalities and many others………..We would like to invite more trouble by going for a all out war………

    the zingoistic comments made by politicians and right wings are hollow on both sides…………No country can win a war on the other because of presence of Nuclear weapons……Both will destroy each other………

    coming to the writers logic about AWACS……….The base also housed jets,helicopters etc which are used in FATA……….

    I urge upon the readers to wait for the investigation to complete and trollers of both sides to stop bashing one another………..Recommend

  • sabi
    Aug 18, 2012 - 11:09PM

    Get rid of deep state get rid of all evils-


  • unbeliever
    Aug 18, 2012 - 11:31PM

    i have a feeling that the quite older fellows writing on ET are less prone to conspiracy theories than the younger ones.

    however, if raw has developed such penetration skills in pakistan, then finally i will have to give some credit to those fat babus, for accomplishing something. however, i still refuse to believe it, as raw is simply not capable and competent enough to carry out such operations with a precision that you cannot find any evidence implicating it.


  • Rsingh
    Aug 18, 2012 - 11:39PM

    It is these F16s , AEW&C, J17s. Without these Pak Army cannot defeat Taliban. And what Pakistanis and their analysts are missing is the fact that Taliban are now longer interested in Afghanistan they want to take control over Pakistan.

    By raising a finger on India Pakistan is obviously ignoring the Elephant in the room i.e Taliban. Taliban and Pakistani Mullahs are not as stupid as what an average literate Pakistani and world thinks of them.Taliban are no longer interested in Afghanistan, Taliban want to take over Pakistan.

    Pakistani nukes are enough to keep India at bay but Pakistan’s crown jewels are totally useless against Taliban. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Aug 18, 2012 - 11:56PM

    So “only the Jews could have done this”!
    WOW, please provide some proof of your claim, based on something other than your permanent CONSPIRACY mindset!
    AS WE ALL KNOW, PAKISTANIS ARE MASTERS OF BLAMING OTHERS FOR EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS ( except of course the Taliban, your brothers, who repeatedly claim credit for all the misery they inflict upon Pakistan)!


  • Max
    Aug 19, 2012 - 12:34AM

    It is a thought-provoking essay and policy-makers may, please, seriously think of some the questions raised by the author. I share his apprehensions.


  • F
    Aug 19, 2012 - 1:19AM

    India is supporting LET. USA is directing the Haqqanis and Israel is controlling everyone. But Pakistanis are very smart people – they know all this – yet refuse to go after these organizations that are fully supported by their enemies. Living in denial is so much better and blaming the trinity of evil just feels so good.


  • Concerned
    Aug 19, 2012 - 2:09AM

    It is not entirely implausible that other regional interests are being pursued using the TTP. Whatever your viewpoint on this latest attack, i.e. whether this was foreign-sponsored, or a ‘pure’ TTP-sanctioned attack; it is certain that they cannot be spared. They are certainly not our allies and are unworthy of our support or sympathy. FATA must be reigned into Pakistan, we cannot return to the ‘good old days’ – our strategy and national direction must change.


  • Vikram
    Aug 19, 2012 - 3:43AM

    Most likely some people in Air Force are “true Muslims” who helped talibans in their Jihad. Blaming Jews or any one else is total non-sense.


  • KhuRram Kaleem
    Aug 19, 2012 - 4:20AM

    Taliban have shown they are capable enough to penetrate into core of Pakistani armed forces.
    They have given clear message to army top brass that they cannot follow America demand of attacking the haqqanis .

    It’s a very calculated move by Talibans and their objective was to achieve a deferal of north waziristan which seems to be achieved.


  • Aug 19, 2012 - 4:34AM

    The links you post are for Night vision used by Civilian users for activities like Rabbit hunting or fishing..These goggles have maximum range of 100 meters and are cumbersome,difficult to carry in situation when you are in midst of a gun battle..

    The terrorists had Military-grade night vision which don’t need to shine IR light for seeing..and have virtually infinite range of vision….and are miniaturized for being worn like goggles


  • Ijaz Mir
    Aug 19, 2012 - 4:58AM

    After reading this article and the comments the verdict is TTP is the enemy of Pakistan and we have passed the stage of negotiation. Once for all send them to stone age .


  • JSM
    Aug 19, 2012 - 9:29AM

    Very good joke.


  • Aug 19, 2012 - 10:50AM

    Even if we agree it is India – the author should be asking the local investigation authorities to investigate where their uniforms were stitched – where did they source the weapons – who hired the vehicles – why not do some good old perry mason style investigation for a change – there were a dozen attackers for crying out loud – surely they belong to some villages and towns – investigate the paper trail. and if you hit upon India at some stage – do give India the evidence.


  • KK
    Aug 19, 2012 - 11:11AM

    Correct conclusion by the learned auther.
    Taliban boys sneaked into the base and came across their first aircraft. Since they are illiterate, could’nt tell what aircraft it was. They ran their palms along the nose cone and realised it was J-11 fighter jet. So they spared it. They approached another bunch of planes. They licked it with their tongue. It definitely tasted like french cheese. This had to be a Mirage fighter. Again they had no choce but to spare it. They felt excited when they finally found the AWAC, but they were so torn between following the orders from their Indian handlers and their loyalty to PAF that they decided to just damage the nozzle. Enough damage for a few lousy Indian Ruppees.


  • Pan Mat
    Aug 19, 2012 - 11:40AM

    @Anwar: Only the Jews could have done this. The planning is too good and shows level of sophistication to do this..

    So you do raise an important question about competence of Pak security apparatus.


  • Raw is War
    Aug 19, 2012 - 12:01PM

    thank Taliban


  • sibghat mansoor
    Aug 19, 2012 - 12:07PM

    i would say that as USA & INDIA are behind our nuclear assets so by compromising our surveillance monitoring capacity they want to blind us so that they could attack us and we don’t even come to know that what has happened just like OBL operation.


  • nrmr44
    Aug 19, 2012 - 1:20PM

    The author is a brilliant logician!
    It is so obvious now that India created the LeT to launch the Mumbai carnage, so that it could introduce the TTP to attack Pakistan, just as it had created Pakistan itself in 1947 so that it could give itself an enemy against which it could …….. Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Aug 19, 2012 - 2:02PM

    Last year it was Ikram Sehgal this time its the author. Since Your Interior Ministry has identified the militants, why not follow that lead?


  • Great Thinker
    Aug 19, 2012 - 2:32PM

    @ Author

    WoW!!! What an imagination. Do you also blame India if you are constipated?


  • Caramelized_Onion
    Aug 19, 2012 - 2:37PM

    Ok, to all my fellow Pakistani, please consider: Just because the TTP is a reality and is a threat doesn’t mean that India is sitting back and watching. India is active too, is that really that hard a concept to grasp?

    Now to argue that there is only one single threat to Pakistan and that is either Taliban or India but not both is absurd. Pakistan today faces a wide threat spectrum and it includes both India and the TTP. Is that so hard to comprehend?

    The author is merely suggesting that this particular event was not signature TTP as they tend to create maximum human suffering. The impact of the attack was to gain strategic objectives which to me makes more sense than the fact that a few illiterate fanatics woke up one day in Waziristan and decided to attack Kamra.


  • antanu g
    Aug 19, 2012 - 4:26PM

    author had raised a genuine point which obviously you would not accept.its your outlook but in the process you are msking yourself a laughing stock.


  • Al nomadi
    Aug 19, 2012 - 5:11PM

    In my honest oppinion the perimeter security was non-existent. A sensative facility like this should be protected with night vision cameras with motion detection, fences with vibration detection, long range PIR motion detection http://www.optexamerica.com/redwall/redwall.aspx?p1=290&p2=291 all of which is monitored at a modern high-tech central station with full command and control capabilities overseen at all times by an officer of at least the rank of captain.


  • Cautious
    Aug 19, 2012 - 5:23PM

    Conspiracy theory gone wild? Here’s another “theory” – some religious fanatics who have been trying to overthrow the govt of Pakistan for years decided to embarrass the establishment by attacking one of their air bases and reeking havoc. Pretty simple stuff it you pay attention to the obvious.


  • Sidewinder
    Aug 19, 2012 - 5:40PM

    well is it so difficult for the author to understand the motive behind a terrorist attack on a premier Aeronautical facility,by those who call themselves enemy of the state?btw who told you they came exclusively for AWACS ? the AF base also housed jets which PAF often invokes to pound Talibani positions.you cant tell the terrorists which plane to blow and which one to spare as it is not going to harm them.much the merrier for them.


  • NO JOY
    Aug 19, 2012 - 6:12PM

    Pakistani nukes singing somewhere inside Kamra airbase,hum tum ek Kamra mein band ho aur chabhi kho jai……


  • Nand
    Aug 19, 2012 - 6:13PM

    Yes, yes, yes.
    USA has is using drones and killing of OBL.
    India is targeting their Military installations, gone amok killing people in the cities and creating havoc in Balochistan.
    Israelis – I wonder what they have up their sleeves.

    All this being carried out with functional military hardware.. God forbid if otherwise.


  • Necro
    Aug 19, 2012 - 8:40PM

    @Great Thinker:
    See your interior minster statement about Asam exodus.


  • Khaksar
    Aug 19, 2012 - 9:25PM

    @unbeliever you will never let go of your complacency…would ya? you just won’t get it…ever.


  • Khaksar
    Aug 19, 2012 - 9:26PM

    @Caramelized_Onion If everyone is out to get you…there is something wrong about what you are doing!


  • Tony Singh
    Aug 20, 2012 - 3:16PM

    I say the swedish did it so that they could sell you another one.


  • Asim Sultan
    Aug 21, 2012 - 12:01PM

    I believe one thing that who so ever is behind these attacks, executers are home grown. we must admit that our rulers in past created this menace to further their own agendas i.e in most of the cases was extension their regimes. So as Pakistanis we need to get our house in order and realise why this is not happening in US or that matter in west.Conspiracies has been their and will be their, its us who have to safeguard our interest and defend our country. May ALLAH give us the serenity to fulfill this.


  • abhi
    Aug 21, 2012 - 3:35PM

    @Tony Singh
    Nice one! or it could be chinese, who may want to sell there own technology to pakistan.
    by the way, well done tiger!


  • observer
    Aug 21, 2012 - 4:33PM

    Some more ‘THOUGHTS’
    A. Lal Masjid brigade was destroying Indian Film and Music VCDs.
    B. This activity was not detrimental to Pakistan.
    C. Lal Masjid got attacked.
    D. Supreme Court holds that innocents were targetted in Lal Masjid affair.
    E. Government ang Army of Pakistan do not contest SC view.
    F. So, whose interests were being affected and who could have victimised the innocents of Lal Masjid?
    G. Indians, of course.

More in Opinion