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Air Force

In 1994 the Pakistan Air Force had 45,000 active personnel and 8,000 reserve personnel. Headquartered in Rawalpindi, it comprised directorates for operations, maintenance, administration, and electronics. There were three air defense districts--north, central, and south.

In 1994 the air force was organized into eighteen squadrons, with a total of 430 combat aircraft. The mainstay of the air force was the F-16 fighter. Of the forty aircraft originally acquired, thirty-four were in service, divided among three squadrons. Some were reportedly grounded because of a lack of spare parts resulting from the 1990 United States suspension of military transfers to Pakistan. Pakistan had an additional seventy-one F-16s on order, but delivery has been suspended since 1990. Other interceptors included 100 Chinese J-6s (which were scheduled to be phased out) and eighty J-7s, organized into four squadrons and two squadrons, respectively. Air-to-air missiles included the Sparrow, Sidewinder, and Magic.

The air force had a ground-attack role. The air force had three squadrons of Chinese Q-5s (a total of fifty aircraft) as well as one squadron of eighteen Mirage IIIs and three squadrons (fifty-eight aircraft) of Mirage 5s, one squadron of which was equipped with Exocet missiles and was deployed in an antiship role.

In 1994 Pakistan took out of storage thirty of forty-eight Mirage IIIs that it had originally acquired from Australia; the Mirages were grouped into a fighter squadron. Additionally, Pakistan's Mirage 5s were scheduled to be upgraded with French assistance.

The backbone of the transport fleet was formed by twelve C130 Hercules, which had recently been upgraded; plans to acquire more were stymied by the dispute with the United States over Pakistan's nuclear program. There were also smaller transport aircraft and a variety of reconnaissance aircraft.

A rivalry exists between the Army and Air Force, and there is debate among the military regarding whether the Air Force should redefine its primary mission, which is to support Army operations during war. More than half of the Pakistan Air Force is dedicated to close air support operations. These units played a key role in defending Pakistani territory during the 1965 and 1971 wars. But the Air Force has been weakened by the Pressler amendment, which has stalled delivery of F16 aircraft for nearly six years. The Clinton administration hopes to sell these aircraft to a third country so that Pakistan can be repaid for the planes. It is very unlikely that the F16s will ever reach Islamabad.

The Brown amendment, signed into law in January 1996, was designed to relieve some of the pressures created by the Pressler sanctions, which had crippled parts of the Pakistani military, particularly the Air Force. The Brown amendment allows nearly $370 million of previously embargoed arms and spare parts to be delivered to Pakistan. It also permits limited military assistance for the purposes of counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, anti-narcotics efforts, and some military training.

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Updated Sunday, March 12, 2000 12:03:01 PM