Two years after the Balakot airstrike by India, Pakistan is reportedly looking to strengthen its Air Force by procuring new weapons, increasing its manpower, and improving infrastructure.
On February 26, Indian Air Force fighter jets crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to drop bombs on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot area. The mission was undertaken to avenge the deaths of 40 Indian CRPF troopers, who were killed in a suicide bombing carried out by the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama.
The next day, Islamabad retaliated with Pakistani fighter jets entering into the airspace over Jammu and Kashmir. During an aerial dogfight, Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s aircraft was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force.
The pilot ejected but fell into the Pakistani territory. He was in the Pakistani military’s custody for 60 hours before being released.
As a whole, the episode was seen as a victory for India, with the JF-17 Thunder fighter jets — built jointly by Pakistan and China — failing to meet the desired standards.
Two years later, the Pakistani Air Force is now eyeing a significant increase in manpower, weapons, and improvement in infrastructure.
According to Times Now, the PAF is looking to increase manpower by about 6,400, of which 400 would be officer rank.
Besides, PAF is planning to purchase several Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) planes. This is being done to avoid a repeat of Balakot-like incidents in the future.
The service is planning to procure 19 multi-role radars and some mobile observation units in order to increase the ability to detect intrusion of enemy forces.
As per reports, Pakistan will also upgrade its airbase in Skardu city in Gilgit−Baltistan and will convert it from a forward base into a main operating base.
The development comes four years after the PAF decided to establish a new base in Bholari, near Karachi.
The country will increase its air-defense capabilities given that in 2011, the US Navy SEALS had managed to fly in from Afghanistan and kill Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hiding in a house in Pakistan’s Abbottabad, and more recently the Indian Air Force’s Balakot airstrike in 2019.