Pakistan’s Naval Air Arm

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Pakistan’s Naval Air Arm
Pakistan’s Naval Air Arm

The Pakistan Naval Air Arm ever since its creation with the commissioning of its home base PNS Mehran in 26 September 1975 has been a vital part of Pakistan Navy and this force is dominated by PN helicopter fleet, these helicopters have played a major role in the domains of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Maritime patrolling and overall supporting the surface fleet. The helicopters with which we are familiar today, alot of them are serving Pakistan as long as up to 47 years now!

These are as given below:

Westland WS-61 Sea King: Being part of the Naval air arms 111 squadron “Sharks” since between October 1975 and November 1977, this helicopter is the linchpin of naval air arms operational capabilities. Its main roles are the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti Surface Vessel (ASV) operations. Beside these it plays a pivotal role in helicopter visit, board, search and seizure (HVBSS), Para drop, VVIP/VIP passenger ferry and Medical Evacuation (MEDVAC) duties.

For ASV operation the helicopter has been armed with AM 39 Exocet Anti-Ship Missiles, while for ASW operations it can get armed with Mk 46 torpedoes or depth charges.

Since its inception in the 111 Squadron, the helicopter has been at the Centrepoint of the PN operations. Be it a multi-national exercise e.g AMAN, KAKADU or mass relief operation such as earthquake of 2005, Flood Relief Operations in Punjab and Sindh in 2010 and Flood Relief Operations in Sindh in 2011, 111 squadron has always been at the forefront. This squadron has the unique capability to undertake Night Search and Rescue over sea. The squadron is routinely tasked at short notices to undertake challenging and risk prone helicopter operations. At present squadron has up to 11 Westland Sea King Helicopters. Avionics suite of PN Sea Kings is being upgraded to enhance its sensors capabilities.

Aérospatiale SA 316 Alouette III: In 1977 four Alouette III helicopters were acquired from France, leading to the naval air arms 333 squadron. Later in 1982 two more Alouette helicopters were added, after being upgraded with radar. In 2008 2 more SA 316B’s Alouettes got added with upgraded instruments. Currently there are reportedly between 4 to 7 of these helicopters in active service with PN in air arms. The helicopter plays a key role in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) being armed with light torpedoes and depth charges. But with time these helicopters are becoming obsolete and in dire need of replacement.

Harbine Z9EC (Dauphin): Pakistan received 6 Harbin Z 9EC Dauphin helicopters from China in 2009 with 222 squadron of the PN air arm. Currently being the most modern Helicopter in PN, its equipped with Radar, Sonar and Electronic Support Measures (ESM).  The primary roles assigned are ASW and Reconnaissance along with infinite secondary roles such as SAR, MEDEVAC, Command and Liaison and Training etc. The Helicopter can be armed with light weight laser guided missile, torpedoes and depth charges.

Westland Lynx: In 1994 Pakistan brought 3 ex Royal Navy Lynx helicopters from UK and inducted in 222 squadron. But saw short service with PN going only over a decade. by 2008-09 the Lynx had been already got grounded due to shortage of spare parts supply and then got replaced by Harbin Z 9EC.

Ex Qatar Emiri Navy, Westland Sea King: In 2021 PN brought 10 WS 61 Sea King Mk5 Helicopters from Qatar Emiri Navy. Deliveries of the fleet started in July 2021 and include 5 Mk. 3A Anti-Submarine/Anti Surface Warfare variants (able to carry two Exocet anti-ship missiles) and 5 Mk. 2 commando (troop carrier/utility) helicopters. The medium-lift British-built WS-61 Sea King helicopter is used for maritime utility & anti-ship warfare roles, equipped with a Sea Searcher radar in an enlarged dorsal radome. The utility variant can transport 28 fully equipped troops.

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