On Friday, the Pakistan Air Force inducted a new type of Chinese-built fighter, the J-10C. The J-10C brings new capabilities to the Pakistan Air Force such as high manoeuvrability, advanced infrared detection capabilities and long-range air-to-air missiles.
To mark its induction, the Pakistan Air Force released a song chronicling the force's evolution over the decades. The song, Hum Arze Pak Key Hawai Fauj K Uqaab, was shared on the Pakistan Air Force's social media channels on Friday. The video shows the J-10C, fighters such as the in-production JF-17 (also designed in China) and the older US-built F-16 and other equipment operated by the Pakistan Air Force.
Interestingly, the video also gives a glimpse of the Pakistan Air Force's plans to acquire new armed drones from Turkey and China. US defence website The Drive noted the Pakistan Air Force appeared to have used stock footage of the drones, suggesting they are not yet in service.
One of the drones shown is the TB2 Bayraktar, made by Turkish company Baykar. The TB2 Bayraktar has been in the news for the past three weeks: Ukraine has used its TB2 drones to attack Russian vehicles and air defence systems. Baykar claims 16 countries, including Ukraine and Poland, have ordered the TB2.
The TB2 has seen action in multiple conflicts, including the civil wars in Libya and Syria and the Azerbaijan-Armenia war of 2020. In all these conflicts, the TB2 is believed to have been successful in attacking Russian air defence systems such as the famed Pantsir.
Pakistan has been considered a possible buyer of the TB2 for years now. In January this year, British outlet Shephard Media claimed Pakistan had taken delivery of an initial batch of TB2 drones in “mid-2021” and the type was expected to be formally unveiled in March.
Another Turkish drone shown in the Pakistan Air Force video was the Baykar Akinci, considered Turkey's most advanced drone to date. While the TB2 has a maximum take-off weight of just 650kg, the twin-engine Akinci can take off at a weight exceeding 5 tonnes. This enables it to stay airborne significantly longer than the TB2 and carry a payload of around 1,300kg consisting of sensors and weapons. The Akinci is capable of carrying larger weapons than the TB2, which relies on lightweight anti-tank missiles and precision-guided bombs. The Akinci was first delivered to the Turkish military in August 2021. The Akinci's take-off weight, payload and endurance are comparable to the US-built MQ-9A Reaper, which India has been looking to purchase.
The third drone shown by the Pakistan Air Force was the Chinese-built Wing Loong II. In 2018, reports said Pakistan had signed a deal with China to buy 48 Wing Loong II drones, with the agreement involving joint production. The Wing Loong II is believed to have a take-off weight of over 4,000kg. In 2021, media reports said a Wing Loong II was spotted at the Mianwali airbase in Pakistan. Like the Akinci and TB2, the Wing Loong II can be used in reconnaissance roles or attack missions employing missiles and bombs.
The Pakistan Air Force also showed a computer-generated image of what appeared to be a twin-engine stealth fighter. The use of a twin-engine design is notable as Pakistan has, for decades, relied on lighter-weight, single-engine fighters such as the French Mirage-III/V, Chinese J-7 and later F-16, JF-17 and J-10C. The design shown in the Pakistan Air Force video had canards, which are small control surfaces in front of the wings. Interestingly, the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter uses canards.
Pakistan has had an initiative to develop technology for a stealth fighter called Project Azm, though it is unclear how much progress it has achieved. Turkey has also indicated it could cooperate with Pakistan on building a stealth fighter. Turkey has its own stealth fighter project, which is expected to fly for the first time in 2025-26.
Last week, a Pakistani minister claimed the country would receive a variant of the J-20!