Why Pakistan Surprised India Despite India Spends Billions On Its Air Force

A book written by author Thomas M. Leonard elaborate why Pakistan’s air force (PAF) maintained a ratio of 3:1 aircraft kills against India in the 1965 war. According to the Encyclopedia of the developing world book (Taylor & Francis. pp. 806) is now much inferior to the world’s fourth-largest Air Force after the induction of 272 Russian SU-30MKI the backbone of IAF and lacks the race even more after addition of 36 Dassault Rafale in the Golden Arrows Squadron based in Ambala.

PAF tried to attack military installation in the broad light just the day after the Balakot strike on 27 Feb 2019 ( operation swift retort) which has been a successful mission, but such a quick response was not expected by anyone. The attacking team of PAF had eight F-16C, Mirage and one Saab ERIEYE.

The F-16C was not able to shoot Su-30MKI but the SAAB ERIEYE (AEW&C) also played a major role in giving locations and coordinates Indian MiG-21 and Su-30MKI. India couldn’t achive major kills against F-16 due to PAF’s SAAB ERIEYE.

The PAF received a major operational boost against India’s Su-30MKI because of its the AEW&C and the Falcon DA-20 aircraft electronic warfare based aircraft.

India’s Su-30MKI plagued with engine problems and only 47% availability for service. Indian Air Force could only send less than 100 Su-30MKI to any operational duties despite owning 272 aircraft. Hence India cannot deploy all aircraft in India’s border with Pakistan.

Su30 MKI- The backbone of Indian Air Force

Electronic Warfare Aircraft

Pakistan Airforce uses Falcon DA-20 aircraft which is a French business jet, developed by Dassault Aviation in the mid-60s. In 1987 PAF equipped two DA-20 aircraft with an electronic warfare suite, tasked with providing ESM (electronic warfare support measures) and ECM (electronic counter measures) and to support other PAF squadrons. Electronic warfare missions provide data that is analyzed by EW (electronic warfare) officers to compile an enemy’s electronic order of battle and evaluate their tactics.

India doesn’t posses any dedicated EW aircraft, IAF aircraft depend on jammers for protection which are usually heavy and reduces the range and weapon capacity of an aircraft but the induction of Rafale with its powerful SPECTRA EW suite will fulfill this need to some extent, the integration of SDR ( software define radio) will also help in safe and secure communication. Pakistan currently operates 3 such aircraft.

DA-20 Falcon


Another field in which PAF is ahead of India is the AEW&C (Airborne early warning and control system) .

The basic role of an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system is to detect aircraft, ships, and vehicles at long ranges and perform command and control of the battlespace in an air engagement by directing fighter and attack aircraft strikes. AEW&C units are also used to carry out surveillance.

SAAB 2000 Erieye

India posses the NETRA aircraft built by the DRDO on the airframe of Embraer ERJ-145 which provides the 240-degree coverage currently only 3 units of NETRA are operated by IAF. This platform is very similar to the PAF Erieye SAAB 2000 developed by Swedish company SAAB. This system has a range of around 425-450 Km.

Pakistan received its 4th system in May 2020, one unit of these platforms was used in Operation Swift retort. Pakistan also uses Chinese SHANXI ZDK-03 another AEW&C based on the model of Y-8 transport aircraft. To counter the increasing number of such systems that can act as a force multiplier and can play a crucial role in the battlespace, India will also add two more PHALCON AWACS which is based on Russian Il-76 transport aircraft with Israeli EL/W-2090 radar in the future.


Further Developments

The need for SDR and datalinks for safe and universal communication is urgent as the assets of the different countries can’t communicate with equipment of other different nations e.g Russian aircraft can’t communicate/talk to American Aircrafts.

Induction of more AEW&C, as India has to prepare itself for a two-front war, and currently PAF has twice the number of such platforms than IAF.

Acquiring a dedicated system for SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense) and DEAD (destruction of enemy air defense) missions will boost the power of the air force and will increase the probability of mission success.


SEAD and DEAD are usually the military operations performed to suppress the enemy based air defense including surface to air missiles, early warning radar, and the command control center by destroying them physically or electronically. India also tested its NGARM (New Generation Anti-Radar Missile) which was tested from Su-30MKI in Jan 2019. China also uses J-16D aircraft for this purpose.

Although, Pakistan and India produce domestic aircraft but Pakistan and India will go to war with European technologies. The use of Russian-made Su-30MKI and DRDO AEW&C were the main reason for India to be defeated by Pakistan if Kashmir skirmish takes place again.

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