At a ceremony held at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra, last Thursday, Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, the chairman of the PAC board, announced the launch of Falco UAV
production in Pakistan in collaboration with Selex Galileo of Italy
. Speaking on the occasion, the Air Marshal said the UAV co-production facility was a major step towards the long-term goal of self-reliance in military aviation industry.
In the opinion of this blogger, it is expected that most Pakistanis will take pride in the nation's indigenous capacity
to build and eventually use armed drones to put down the insurgent groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who have unleashed a reign of terror in Pakistani towns and cities. Most such attacks cause large numbers of innocent civilian casualties and powerful, palpable anger against the responsible groups.
Many Pakistanis will also see the development and manufacturing of UAVs positively in the context of Pakistan's competition with archrival India's
UAV effort backed by the Israelis
. But there are some elements in Pakistan who are irrevocably opposed to any military action by US or Pakistan against the Taliban or Al Qaeda and their allies. They will loudly oppose the the development, manufacture and use of drones against any internal insurgency, just as they have opposed the US drones attacking targets in Pakistan's FATA region. Fortunately, support for such groups on both the left and the right is rapidly declining, especially after the reported killing of Baitullah Mehsud who was seen as public enemy #1 by the vast majority of Pakistanis.
While it is absolutely desirable for Pakistan to replicate US Predator capabilities and become self-reliant to avoid the political backlash when US predator strikes claim innocent Pakistani civilian lives, I doubt if it'll happen any time soon. While Washington has offered the UCAV
(Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) technology to its allies in Europe, it has been reluctant to make it available to Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Indians are likely to get the US armed drone know-how through the Israelis.
The growing interest by Pakistani military and also foreign companies and governments has helped spawn several private Pakistani UAV companies
specializing in air-frames, launch and propulsion, flight control, tele-command and control systems, signal intelligence, training simulators, etc. In addition to Integrated Dynamics, other private companies involved in UAV development and manufacturing include, East-West Infinity, Satuma and Global Industrial Defense Solutions.
Flamingo - Satuma Pakistan
Pakistan UAV 2
Mukhbar- Satuma Pakistan
Pakistan UAV Uqaab
Uqaab - Air Weapons Complex
I think the current generation of Pakistani drones, including the Italian designed Falco, are not at all comparable to the larger US drones armed with powerful Hellfire missiles and sophisticated targeting technology which still results in serious errors. Regardless of the sophistication of drones, such errors can only be reduced by improving the accuracy and reliability of the human intelligence on the ground in FATA.
Here's a recent report by Farhan Bokhari of Jane's Defense Weekly on Falco production launch in Pakistan:
The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Pakistan's chief aircraft manufacturing facility, has formally launched plans to part-produce the Falco unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a system already acquired by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) from Italian company Selex Galileo. The project, unveiled on 20 August, will result in some of the Falco's parts being manufactured domestically to reduce reliance on Italian imports.
The new programme marks an important step towards achieving an indigenous UAV capability - something seen as increasingly important to the PAF as it expands its role in the country's war against militants across North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, the chief of staff of the PAF, told Jane's earlier in August about the PAF's growing role in supporting anti-terrorism operations. UAVs are understood to be central to these efforts. Earlier this year, the Pakistani military successfully blocked an advance by Taliban militants in and around the northern Swat valley, with the PAF "carrying out several strikes on Taliban strongholds" following UAV surveillance, according to a senior Pakistani security official.
The PAC chairman Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan said at the project's opening ceremony that continued use of the Falco "would greatly enhance the PAF's operational capability". Western defence officials in Islamabad told Jane's that Pakistan would eventually seek another armed UAV or work with Selex Galileo to develop a weaponised version of the Falco. "Today, the Falco UAV is principally for [reconnaissance] and intel-gathering purposes," said one official. "But I am sure the Pakistanis will eventually try to go for UAVs armed with missiles."
The launch of the Falco project precedes the PAC's roll-out, expected later this year, of the first locally built JF-17 fighter, an aircraft jointly developed by the PAC and China's Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC). The PAF plans to acquire at least 250 JF-17s to form the backbone of its fighter fleet. "The Falco UAV and the JF-17 both fit into the same philosophy, which is to reduce reliance wherever possible on imports," said the Western official. "Over time, Pakistan seems to be getting into handling more and more sophisticated technology."
Falco UAV Finds Pakistan A Most Suitable Environment
The Pakistan Air force has initiated the start of the Falco UAV Co-Production Project. The project was inaugurated at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra last Thursday, with Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, Chairman, PAC Board, was the featured guest at the occasion. Falco is an advanced tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) designed by Selex Galileo, Italy, and will be co-produced by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra. The Falco UAV will address the present and future surveillance and reconnaissance needs of the Pakistan Air Force. Speaking on the occasion, Air Marshal Farhat Hussain said the addition of UAV co-production facility would be a major step towards the long-term goal of self reliance in military aviation industry. He lauded the efforts of engineers and technicians of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex who had worked diligently for the last two years to establish the facility. He further stated that Falco UAV will greatly enhance the PAF operational capability. Earlier, Managing Director Aircraft Manufacturing Factory, Air Vice Marshal Aminullah Khan and Managing Director F6 RF, Air Commodore Nadeem Aslam, presented an appraisal of the project activities. The induction of this technology has opened a new dimension in the field of aviation manufacturing at PAC and would be used for other requirements of aviation industry. The roll-out of the first co-produced Falco UAV from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex should occur in the near future.
Pakistan's Defense Production Going High Tech
Growing India-Israel Defense Collaboration
Pakistan Military Business and Industrial Revolution
Jane's Defense Industry Briefing on Pakistan
India-Pakistan Military Balance
Pakistan's Arms Industry
India's Israeli Supported UAV Plans
Pakistan Defense Production
Washington Offers Predators to Germany, Italy
Demolishing India's War Myths about Pakistan
Chuck Yeager on Pakistan Air Force