Islamabad: The Pakistan Air Force must prepare for a "two-front" situation because of its involvement in anti-terror operations and its historic adversarial role with neighbour India, its chief has said.
"We are now faced with a definite two-front scenario: external as well as internal," Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafiq Butt said.
"While we have always prepared for the traditional and ominous external threat, the new predicament did take us a while to get up to speed with," he said, referring to PAF`s "adversarial role" with India and its recent involvement in anti-terror operations.
"Airpower can achieve much more in a short span of time if employed with clear understanding of its capabilities. Its inherent flexibility has enabled nation states to successfully deter their conventional adversaries as well as prosecute irregular outfits," Butt said.
While participating in anti-terror campaigns, the PAF learnt "on the job quickly and (was) efficiently supporting our ground troops in all their operations against militants", he said in an interview with Jane`s Defence Weekly.
Butt said the PAF is set to attain the capability of carrying out aerial refuelling of its frontline JF-17 Thunder jets by the end of this summer.
"The ground tests have been very successful and I am satisfied. The (mid air refuelling test) will be done successfully by end of this summer," he said.
The in-flight refuelling of the JF-17s by Il-78 fuel tankers will allow the combat jets to remain airborne for longer. The JF-17 was jointly developed by Pakistan and China.
Pakistan acquired the Il-78 fuel tankers from Ukraine in 2010 and these are being synchronised with the JF-17s.
Butt claimed the capability would enhance the marketability of the JF-17, which is being monitored by several countries due to its cost effectiveness. "The JF-17 programme has been an excellent project to pursue... All this would also not have been possible without the cooperation of China," Butt said.
Besides an "attractive price tag", the JF-17 can carry a variety of weapons and "would become the PAF`s mainstay", he said. The PAF plans to induct around 200 to 250 JF-17 jets.
Asked about the induction of Chinese-built ZDK-03 airborne early warning aircraft, Butt said the plane has shown that its "capabilities work well over sea, plains and mountainous terrain".
The PAF is maintaining and operating a sizeable fleet of US-made F-16 jets and its personnel are experienced in handling the system.
"The PAF received its last batch of F-16s in the recent past and even now, there are US Congressional clearances available for the provision of additional F-16 aircraft. Owing to requirements (and) compulsions in the future, there exists a possibility of acquisition of additional F-16 aircraft," he said.