Tag Archives | F-16

Urdunama: Khas Dost

Once upon a time, there lived two best friends…

Javed Chaudhry, Urdu columnist on The Express, had written an interesting article the Joint Fighter (JF-17) multi-role combat aircraft, purported to be the result of a Sino-Pakistan defense project.  The Filter Coffee has pointed out previously, how this “all-weather” friendship between China and Pakistan is a elaborate farce that has fooled no one.  Pakistan has entered into deals with China only when other avenues were closed, and China, fully cognizant of Pakistan’s plight, has maximized its own gains to Pakistan’s detriment.  An old article by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa reinforces this point.

Mr. Chaudhry narrates the circumstances behind the Sino-Pakistan JF-17 project (اردو).  LT @muladhara for bringing this article to my attention.

Air Marshall Shahid Latif is a decorated officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).  In January 1983, he became one of the first in the PAF to receive training on flying F-16s in the U.S.  He was also responsible for initiating Pakistan’s bid to purchase F-16s from the U.S. In 2000, Air Marshall Latif was put in charge of  the JF-17 [Joint Fighter] project, which was initiated in 1994 with the assistance of China.  The project was meant to be a joint venture with a Chinese firm, CATIC.  China and Pakistan hoped to joint-manufacture the jet to meet their defense needs and supply JF-17s to interested countries.

Pakistan felt compelled to enter into an agreement with China because Pakistan was unable to replace its aging fighter aircraft after being ostracized by the U.S. for “supporting terror groups,” after the Afghanistan war.  PAF faced the possibility of becoming a spent force, following the U.S.’s embargo and the obsolescence of its own aircraft.  Thus, in 1994, the Benazir Bhutto administration entered into an agreement with China to co-manufacture JF-17 aircraft.  However, no progress was made due to international pressure and Pakistan’s own economic situation.  The project was restarted in 2000, with Air Marshall Latif at the helm, and within three years, the JF-17 made its first successful test flight.

After JF-17′s success, PAF labeled Air Marshall Latif the “AQ Khan of the JF-17.”  The project envisaged Pakistan and China contributing 58% and 42% respectively to manufacture components needed for the aircraft, which was expected to rival the F-16.  Air Marshall Latif was expected to rise to the post of Chief of Air Staff after the success of this project; however, due to pressure from an unnamed country, another individual superseded him to the post.

After the new Chief of Air Staff took command, plans of the joint venture to co-manufacture JF-17s were abandoned.  Instead, Pakistan entered into an agreement with CATIC to purchase the aircraft [thus altering the nature of the project and the relationship between the two parties].  The original cost of the project was expected to be $1 billion (Pakistan hoped to manufacture 250 JF-17s).  As part of this new agreement, Pakistan obtained a loan, again from CATIC, at an interest rate of 7% to purchase these aircraft in 2008.  The terms of this loan were excessive, given the world economic crisis and the fact that Pakistan had just entered into another loan agreement with CATIC at a considerable price for an aviation system.  As a result, Pakistan was compelled to sign the purchase agreement with CATIC on March 18, 2009, at a final price of $10 billion. [The Express]

 

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On Indo-US ties

India needs to do its share of heavy-lifting too.

News trickled in yesterday that New Delhi shorlisted two European fighter aircraft — Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter’s Typhoon as prospective candidates for the highly publicized $10 billion Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRA) competition.  My Takshashila colleagues Nitin Pai and Dhruva Jaishankar have two excellent posts on India’s MMCRA decision.  Significantly, this decision meant the downlisting of two American firms competing for the MMRCA contract — Boeing’s F/A-18 and Lockheed’s F-16.

It is not everyday that countries sign $10 billion contracts for fighter aircraft.  The sheer scale, value and nature of the MMRCA competition meant that geo-strategic considerations ought to have outweighed purely technical determinants.  And while very valid concerns about U.S. fine-print have been raised, India has faced similar difficulties with less transparent suppliers, and that too, after signing substantial contracts (lest we forget the small matter about us having to pay $3 billion for an antiquated ship that we were initially supposed to receive for free).  The truth is that India’s severely shackled defense industry necessitates entering into contracts for arms and equipment with foreign suppliers under conditions not entirely ideal.  But deriving benefits from domestic defense industry liberalization — if and when this happens — will take several years.  How does India fulfill its defense requirements in the interim?

U.S. ambassador to India Timothy Roemer was quoted as saying that he was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome.   The downlisting of Boeing and Lockheed is but the latest evidence of ties between the world’s two largest democracies being somewhat adrift after Mr. Obama’s visit to India last year.

The civil nuclear deal between India and the U.S. was meant to be the cornerstone of a new age of Indo-U.S. ties, leaving behind decades of mutual mistrust, lecturing and moral posturing.  The deal offered benefits to both India and the U.S. — for India, it meant international recognition as a de facto nuclear power, and for the U.S. it meant nuclear commerce with an emerging economy. It took the U.S. exercising its political clout to see that a waver based on Indian exceptionalism was granted at the NSG, which also required a last-minute call by George W. Bush to Hu Jintao to prevent China from stonewalling the vote.

However, today, U.S. firms are effectively non-participants in nuclear trade with India because of supplier liability imposed by India’s Nuclear Liability Bill.  Globally, suppliers are unable to obtain insurance coverage for nuclear trade.  Both Russian and French firms compete in India’ s nuclear market because they are essentially underwritten by their respective governments.  And even then, the Russians have apparently made it clear to New Delhi that nuclear commerce with India is unsustainable in the long run under such circumstances.

Today India aspires for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council; but reforming the UNSC remains a distant dream. Even so, during Mr. Obama’s visit last year, India joined a select group of nations whose candidature the U.S. endorses.  In its current stint as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, India must make its voice heard and break from a tradition that encourages prevarication and moral posturing.  As I pointed out in a previous blogpost, it’s no use saying India deserves a permanent seat at the UNSC because it represents 1/6th of humanity, if that 1/6th of humanity seldom expresses an opinion.

Undoubtedly, there are bound to be differences in opinion between India and the U.S.  Indeed, it is easy to focus on contentious areas (and there are several) — David Headley, climate change, Pakistan, Iran,  Burma, to name a few.  We need not agree on every aspect of global affairs, but as two large and pluralistic democracies, we share common values and interests, and ought to build our relationship on these shared ideals.  And while it is important not to put undue focus on transactional aspects of our strategic partnership with the U.S., the MMRCA deal will have an impact on the trajectory of this relationship.  And this we knew well before a decision on the shortlist was made.  Indeed, Ambassador Roemer’s resignation hours after India’s announcement of the MMRCA shortlist is probably not a coincidence.

It is certainly conceivable that some of the momentum towards expanding this partnership will be tempered.  Worse, when considered alongside the Nuclear Liability Bill, U.S. companies might soon conclude that the attractiveness of the Indian market is significantly less than the bandwidth they dedicate to it.  After all, interest in India cannot be sustained merely by the “promise” of the Indian market, if none of those promises are materialized.  We have always been eager to deliver our litany of demands to the U.S. — from Afghanistan, to pressuring Pakistan on terror.  But how much are we willing to give in return?  We need to ask ourselves if India is doing its share of the heavy-lifting in  this bilateral relationship.

 

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Link Digest: July 3, 2010

Haqqani, Data Darbar, F-16s, Blackwater and the Narayanpur CRPF ambush.

Your weekly link digest:

  • Haqqani talks: The leaks are important but so is the leaker: Is Sirajuddin Haqqani in negotiations with Hamid Karzai?  Greg Carlstrom reviews.
  • Data Darbar — The target-in-waiting gets hit: Amil “Londonstani” Khan shares interesting perspectives on the July 1 Data Durbar shrine attack in Lahore.
  • F-16s debilitating conditionalities: Apparently, you can please some people none of the time.  Dr. Shireen Mazari is unhappy about the conditions-attached F-16s delivered to the Pakistani Air Force. Meanwhile, despite Sec. Robert Gates’ assurances to New Delhi, PAF’s Air Chief Rao Qamar Suleman unilaterally declared that his country was free to use these aircraft as it pleased (اردو).
  • Peace sacrificed in shrine attack: Syed Saleem Shahzad writes about the Data Darbar attacks, though the interesting bits of this article lie in last section of the article.  If accurate, it would mean that private defense contractors from the U.S. are attempting to establish operations in South Punjab.
  • Military power: key to India’s future: Bharat Verma highlights the challenges India faces as its profile on the global stage grows.
  • The Forest is Moving: Saikat Datta laments on the structural decay of the CRPF after yet another Maoist ambush resulted in 27 deaths in Narayanpur, Chhattisgarh.
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Pakistan's nukes and those Harpoons

First, let’s get the recent reports about Pakistan’s nuclear program out of the way.  Recently, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) reported that Pakistan was expanding its capabilities across the board, including significantly increasing its nuclear stockpile and developing the nuclear capable Babur (a reverse-engineered USN Tomahawk) cruise missile.

BAS now estimates that Pakistan has between 70-90 nuclear weapons. This, as BAS also reports, is comparable to India’s own nuclear stock, which is estimated to be about 70. However, alarmist news reports in the Indian media dilute the true impact of such enhanced capabilities on India.

Qualitative and quantitative enhancements to nuclear arsenal are part of the natural evolutionary course that nuclear powers traverse. Of course, Pakistan’s unnatural increase in nuclear arsenal in the midst of a debilitating internal security situation is a function of its pathological neurosis with India.  But as The Filter Coffee has argued before, India’s nuclear posture with regard to Pakistan need not substantially change due to such revelations.

There are things that India should always continue to do to attain “minimum credible deterrence” — the quest for credible secondary strike capabilities and perfecting its delivery systems need impetus. But India must continue to do these things regardless of what Pakistan does or doesn’t do.

The truth of the matter is, Pakistan is not in a position where it can expect to “win” in a nuclear showdown with a neighbor seven times its size. The scale of damage that Pakistan’s largely sub-kiloton weapons can cause to a country spread across 1.2 million sq. miles with far-flung urban centers, cannot be compared to the cumulative impact of India’s retributive assault on Pakistan’s 2-3 main cities.  India’s lesson from this revelation is to  continue to develop, enhance and fine-tune its own weapons, and refocus on  its laggard missile programs.

The second issue that I wanted to touch on was The New York Times’ article on Pakistan’s illegal modification of the Harpoon anti-ship missile into a land based missile that the US believes is intended for use against India.  The US apparently made an “unpublicized diplomatic protest” upon learning of Pakistan’s actions.

At best, this shock and dismay that Pakistan would actually modify a US weapon to enhance its capabilities against India, can be put down to ignorance and naïveté.  At worst, it is hypocrisy and mock outrage.  If the US sold Pakistan an anti-ship missile, where would the US realistically expect the missile to be used by Pakistan? In a battle against Iran? Against Afghanistan? China? The target of the weapon was always clear — anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the subcontinent’s history will be aware of Pakistan’s preoccupation with India. So why the outrage?

The article also goes on to state: “Pakistan had taken the unusual step of agreeing to allow American officials to inspect the country’s Harpoon inventory to prove that it had not violated the law, a step that administration officials praised”. Presumably, Pakistan signed an EUMA with the US for the sale of anti-ship missiles.  We are told that “physical inspection” is a standard provision of the US’s EUMA agreements.  Indeed, we also know that similar physical inspections of US-supplied Pakistani military hardware have taken place in Pakistan previously (and found to have issues — see page 8).  So how is this apparent magnanimity on the part of Pakistan “unusual”?  Why does it warrant praise?

The continued sale of sophisticated conventional weaponry to Pakistan (refer to this, via FAS) for “good behavior” is like giving candy to a hyperactive child.  The 36 F-16s and 115 115mm howitzers aren’t and won’t be employed by Pakistan in its COIN efforts in NWFP. The US needs ask itself if the sale of sophisticated military equipment to Pakistan is a solution to the problem, or part of it.

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