Pakistan unhappy with US` RQ7 drone offer, seeking armed ones

A peeved Pakistan feels that the dozen unarmed RQ7 drones the US has offered it do not meet its "strategic requirement" and is hoping for a "better deal".

Islamabad: A peeved Pakistan feels that the
dozen unarmed RQ7 drones the US has offered it do not meet
its "strategic requirement" and is hoping for a "better deal"
in the form of missile-capable Shadow 600 UAVs to hit militant
hideouts, a media report said here on Monday.

The RQ7 Shadow drones that the US plans to provide to
Pakistan is much smaller than the deadly Predator and Reaper
UAVs used by the CIA to target militants in the tribal belt
bordering Afghanistan.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates last week offered to
provide 12 RQ7 Shadow UAVs to Pakistan, although the country
was interested in Predator drones, a newspaper reported
from Washington, quoting unnamed sources.

Gate`s visit to Pakistan was an important friendly
gesture but it did not remove the irritants that continue to
mar ties between military establishments of the two nations,
diplomatic sources was quoted as saying by the paper.

Though Pakistan knew that the US did not share the
Predators drones with others, yet it expected a better offer,
the report said.

Pakistan would have welcomed Shadow 600 UAVs, which
have a larger range and can carry a bigger payload than the
RQ7s. Unlike the RQ7s, the Shadow 600 can also be armed with
missiles, which Pakistan believes can be useful in targeting
militants in areas where conventional weapons are not very
effective, the report said.

Defence experts noted that Shadow RQ7s were used by the
US Army at company and battalion levels and did not meet
Pakistan`s strategic requirements.

The RQ7s have four-hour endurance and it may take about
an hour to fly it to a target from a base and another to
return. This leaves the UAV with only two-hour fly time, which
Pakistani experts say is not sufficient to collect
surveillance data from militant hideouts in rugged areas like
South or North Waziristan.

The experts quoted by the paper pointed out that Pakistan
already had four or five various UAVs of the same range and
capability as the RQ7s, including the Luna drones it purchased
from Germany.

"Still, the Pakistanis have not rejected the RQ-7 offer
because they believe it is a way forward," said a defence
expert aware of Islamabad`s reaction to the US offer.

"Pakistan sees the offer as a good thing and has welcomed
it but it says that UAVs of similar capabilities are
commercially available as well," the expert added.

Islamabad says that about 154,000 Pakistani troops
are involved in battling the militants since 2003. The long
engagement has eroded their conventional weapons capability,
affecting a range of equipment such as helicopters, planes and
radars. "They need refurbishment to overcome this problem,"
the report said.

So far the US has only released some night-vision
devices, body-armours, six used helicopters and some spares.

The Pakistani request for helicopter gunships has not yet been
met, it added.