In the next decade all Air Forces are focusing on the Stealth Technology available in the 5th Gen aircraft. The IAF burnt by colossal failures with reference to indigenous aircraft and engine manufacturing was left with a huge gap. It has tried to fill the void which was left by the inability of the IAF to produce the LCA. That void is being filled by three level of purchases, the MCRC, the purchase of Russian PAKFA (called FGFA in Bharat) and possible direct purchase of aircraft from the US.
Within the next quarter century, the IAF is projected to have many 5th generation fighter aircraft. The Chinese Ari Force is Light Years ahead and faces no threat from Delhi. The PAF has taken note of the IAF numbers and is taking appropriate measures to deal with the situation.
The IAF in 2025 will have the PAKFA in service, provided the Russians can produce the aircraft and provided that they are not another generation of Flying Coffins.
The PAF Countermeasures are as follows:
- Begin the slow progress of mastering the technology so that it can be inculcated into existing Aircraft.
- Jointly design and build Aircraft with China with approach 5th generation and beyond.
- Purchase US aircraft with a bit older technology, and then upgrade those aircraft at lesser cost.
- Work with Indonesia, and Turkey in developing local military technologies to counter the threats.
- Use less expensive ways to deal with the incoming threat.
- Bank on Missiles to counter the threat.
- Bring incremental improvement to the JF-17 Thunder in Blcoks of fifty. This will keep the JF-17 thunder infused the latest technology for the next fifty years.
- Start production of the FC-20s based on the J-10B and work with the Chinese on the production of the J-11s.
- Enhance the UAV technology to the next level and design and produce Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs),
- One expensive option is to build X-47 Pegasus class, to counter India’s military aviation threat to Pakistan.
- Work with the Chinese to jontly build the WS-13 engine so that it can be used on the UCAV’s.
- Continue development of the Babur Cruise missile and use to to build UCAV’s.
- This mixture of response will not only be a potent defense against the IAF, but it will be eliminate the attempt of the IAF to intimidate Pakistan.
The first UCAV’s were autonomous cruise missiles, something that the U.S. and Germany have been fielding since the 1940′s. In Europe, several UCAV’s are known as robotic warplanes ( the Neuron, the Barrakuda and the Corax) are under development. These UACV concepts had their origins in the US, and Europe wants to remain competitive with the American Aviation industry. All the programs have stealth features playing in the same league as the American J-UCAS (Joint Unmanned Combat Aerial System). The US program includes the Boeing X45C and the Northrop Grumman X47B Pegasus . These European projects are the first foreign competitors for the American UCAV.
These major UCAV’ systems are in play:
- The six nation $480 million European effort has a produced a flying prototype.
- The joint German-Spanish, Swiss, Barrakuda conducted its first taxi tests on the 26 January 2006.
- The British Corax UACV. The UK perceives the Joint Strike Fighter as the last manned platform for its Air Force, which will eventually replaced by an UCAV. The Corax, which undertook its maiden flight already in 2004.
- China is making UCAV by adopting the old F-7 designs. China is using the J-6 and J-7 into target drones. Pakistan which already has the old F-7s can to this cheaply.
The UACVs have the following advantage:
- Greater maneuverability – in modern day fighter aircraft human tolerance is the limiting factor for the number of g forces the plane can pool during rapid manoeuvres, with UACV this bottleneck is eliminated so they can be very manoeuvrable indeed.
- Less weight – this can affect many things like endurance time, acceleration, payload and so on. One or two pilots and all the stuff you put in the cockpit can weight quite a bit.
- Better aerodynamics – you don’t need the cockpit canopy.
Situational awareness – as Clerik said you can create very good virtual cockpit on ground that is superior to anything you can fit in an aircraft. SA is most important for air superiority missions, I think, and as air-to-air battles are pushed to BWR there is no benefit of having your Mark I eyeball on the actual aircraft.
No crew fatigue – on the ground pilots can control their UACVs in greater comfort and rotate during mission.
- Lower price – often the flying unit can be made cheaper. All that fancy plane-human interface gear, life support, ejection seats and whatnot costs big $, but in case of UACV you only need the plane-human interface part and with that it is one for many planes and can bee cheaper as it doesn’t have to endure all the stresses and such. You need gear for communicating with UACVs instead, but some means of communication are already in place, so no big change there.
- Pilots are out of harms way – UACVs will save pilots lives. Pilot is very expensive to train and hard to replace quickly.
- Long Range Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Combat
- Short Range within Visual Range Combat:
- Low Costs:
- Quantity versus Quality:
- Kamikaze possibilities
The Disadvantages of UCAVs
- Tackling the Problem of Jamming:
- Human Element
- Lag – radio communications can travel only so quickly but reaction time is critical for air engagements.
Single point of failure – if the enemy takes out the command centre, all the UCAV’ are neutralized too.
Those who espouse following the C-47 route for the PAF are living in a fools paradise. The US will not share that technology with Pakistan and it will be too expensive for the PAF. The best route for the PAF will be to work with the Chinese and the Europeans to develop these unmanned systems.