National Security is a function of cumulative effects generated by each and every organ of state and society. It not only depends upon the ideological, perceptual and physical aspects of the state but also encompasses the entirety of social, moral, corporal, emotional, economic, ecological wellbeing of all citizenry. It is in the same context that today, expressions such as Human-, Environmental-, Energy-, Water-, Economic-Security etc. are extensively in vogue, as part of the grand scheme of National Security. Nevertheless, its in the same overall architect of national security, that state organs operate with a certain mandate towards a specified objective.
Armed Forces, generally, are made responsible for safeguarding the physical security of the state and its organs against all threats, external and/or internal. Pakistan Armed Forces, with Pakistan Air Force (PAF) as a constituent part, are also made responsible for state security, almost in the similar fashion. PAF has therefore been contributing immensely and professionally towards the entire construct of national security.
PAF’s role in safeguarding national aerial frontiers has been an epic of utmost integrity, professional competence and unnerving bravery. With the modest yet resolute defensive by an unarmed Dakota in Kashmir war of 1948 to a bold and spirited defensive shoot-out on Eid day of 1956, and from an effective pre-emption strategy of classic offensive-defence doctrine in 1965 war to QPQ+ strategy in operation Swift Retort; PAF has always stood up and ahead boldly, defending the aerial frontiers at the invaluable expense of lives and assets. PAF has never fallen short of sons that have always been committed to take the war to the enemy and immortalise the dictum of “Death before Dishonour”. The wars of 1965 and 1971 remind us of the critical role played by the PAF during attacks on Pakistan’s integrity. During 1965 war, the famous maxim, “Three As saved the day; Allah, Artillery, and Air Force” reached the commoners in every nook and corner of the country. While in 1971, though not on the national canvas due inordinate state-loss, PAF fought and repulsed the enemy air attacks by skillful employment of her meagre assets under highly adverse conditionalities. In erstwhile East Pakistan, the lone No 14 Sqn fought valiantly until their airfield was disabled. Tales of gallantry and sacrifice were numerous but the fate desired those warriors to raze their faithful steed with their own hands and flight homewards to fight on another day. American Air Attaché Brig Gen Chuck Yeager, in West Pakistan was a witness of PAF’s heroic performance in this theatre and described so in his famous book, “The Right Stuff”. Unfortunately, the Ends bore the aggregation of national failure and a singular institutional performance, no matter how extraordinary or admirable, did not beget joy or fulfilment.
Beside war operations, PAF has performed numerous covert and overt, national as well as military undertakings that resulted in strengthening of state sovereignty and fortified national defence. The PAF’s role in acquisition, establishment, progression, maturity and operationalisation of strategic capability is a legend in itself; to be told at another time.
PAF has often deterred conflicts by deploying her assets before the call, while occasionally has also averted unwarranted escalations by mere bold posturing. PAF’s performance during nuclear tests in 1998 and Kargil encounter in 1999 have been of protection and prevention; while during 2001 “Operation Sentinel” and 2008 Mumbai crisis, her proactive deployment posture conveyed the demonstrable deterrence and capacity of effecting offensive-defence. The latest episode in validating the deterrence regime took place on 27th February, 2019; when in response to Indian alleged “Surgical Strikes” in the previous night, PAF responded in broad day light and shot down two Indian fighters, instigated the Indian fratricide of their own helicopter and captured alive one of the shot down pilot. The fallacious perception of any “New Normal” was spontaneously torn and tossed at the faces of illusory Indian claimants.
Latest edition of Indian Air Power Doctrine is highly influenced by the contemporary western thought on Air Power application. Without realising the tributary factors and their deep and intense influences on efficacy and capacity of existing structure, Indian theorists have tasked their air force overwhelmingly for the roles that commensurate only to a self-supporting, competently established and technically developed air force. Unfortunately, IAF does not fulfil any of these criteria. Nonetheless, she has the corporeal wherewithal, though borrowed or bought, to afflict serious cost on smaller neighbours like Pakistan. Additionally, her capacity in indigenous space technology and support of Israeli and American space / technical expertise, casts a grave shadow of aerospace-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), net-centric warfare (NCW) and command & control (C2) capability over entire Pakistan. Therefore, this cumulative of available assets and ill-will, transforms into credible existential threat that shall germinate primarily from application of Indian airpower. The only force to counter such a grave and intense threat is the PAF; which, though lacks the latest gadgetry to match IAF, but definitively retains essential assets and means to defend, counter and strike-back at the enemy at the time and place of the most opportune junctures.
PAF has been and would continue to be the first line of national defence against any aggressor, external or internal. It is in the same spirit that PAF has been preparing her human and material resource for any and all levels of threat contingencies. Ithas traditionally compensated the numerical / technical disparities through immense hard work and utmost professionalism; that is essentially based on the realisation that PAF has to always “fight and win outnumbered and out-gunned”. It is an undeniable fact that PAF’s pursuit for professional excellence is not just an organisational slogan but an existential imperative for national integrity, honour and survival of Pakistan. In presence of real hegemonic freak next-door that has bluntly and blatantly conceded to the division of our national integrity, PAF cannot let her guards down. Long-term investment in intellectual, technological and organisational compatibility to environmental demands, would not only add to national pool of knowledge and progress, but also ensure a confident, secure and resilient Pakistan.
Source: The Nation (Writer: Air Vice Marshal Faheem Ullah (Retd))