Note: This article discusses Pakistani military plans on how to beat a numerically larger Indian military. Article further discusses the latest procurements by Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force & Pakistan Navy.
Basically it all just boils down to quality over quantity. And not just quality of the equipment and weapons, but also the quality of the training, and the quality of the soldier, combined with superior tactics and strategy. This is clearly evident to be the situation over all domains of the militaries of both sides. We also have a modern example of how a smaller military defeats a much larger invading force, through a combination of better-working equipment and better strategy, which is of course how Ukraine is not only keeping a massive Russian invading force at bay, but also successfully conducting many counterattacks throughout the eastern Ukraine frontlines. Here we will briefly go over the strategies, both unconventional and traditional, which the tri-services plans to employ in order to get the upper hand over India’s military.
On the joint forces front, Pakistan has always been better than India at conducting joint forces operations. While India is figuring out how to datalink Russian, American, Israeli and British equipment, Pakistan has been actually fighting modern warfare joint operations from 2006 to 2017, in the war against terror. Especially the application of both land and air forces in an integrated manner is something that the Pakistan Armed Forces has learnt, applied and learnt again multiple times. This level of experience is vital in formulating a joint ops strategy that works for the equipment and order of battle you have, and every country must approach the issue in their own way. Pakistan has been doing this for a long time. Integrated battlefield command and theatre commands are well thought out, combat-tested and battle-proven. Let us now look at a few of the weapon systems recently inducted and planned for the Pakistani military which will give them an edge over the Indians.
If we move on to land forces we again see a pattern of better integrated equipment and men, armed with everything that is needed to repel and counter and Indian land invasion. The army has recently gotten large numbers of the SH-15 self-propelled artillery systems which can fire 155mm shells at maximum distances of slightly over 50 kilometers, these are also used by the PLA Army at very high altitudes in Ladakh (most of the PLA’s military equipment shares some commonality or interoperability with the Pakistan Armed Forces, this in itself plays a major role and a threat to the Indian military). The new artillery also pairs with small drones that provide targeting data to the artillery battalions. The Pakistan Army has also recently inducted hundreds of state-of-the-art VT-4 main battle tanks, and equipped their strike corps, both in the northern and southern axis, with the MBT, forming the bulk of their mechanized strike formations. The army also plans to induct a large number of indigenously-made Shahpar II drones, meant to provide the same offensive firepower to the Pakistani land forces as the TB-2 did to the Azerbaijanis and Ukrainians. Army is also in the midst of a massive upgrade to its attack helicopter fleet, soon to induct large numbers of highly-upgraded Z-10MP helicopters (featuring upgrades in armor, electronic attack and electronic protection, air to ground precision strike as well as flight performance over baseline Z-10s with the PLA), The Pakistan Army will go for a hi-lo mix, with plans to also induct the T-129 ATAK helicopter and the T-929 ATAK II helicopter in the future. Pakistan army has also upgraded its long range precision rocket artillery platforms, with the 120 kilometer-ranged Fatah-1 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (G-MLRS), and a 170+ kilometer-ranged Fatah-2 in development. These provide the bulk of the Pakistan Army’s ground-based long range precision strike capability, able to hit any target inside the conflict theatre regardless of the electromagnetic environment at the targeted location. These new capabilities adequately neutralize India’s massive and large investments in a number of sub-par Indian-made equipment. The ability of the Pakistani land forces to not only repel an Indian land invasion but also impose extreme costs on an invading force is combined with the ability to hit vital logistics, supply and command and control nodes behind enemy lines. As far as protection of own forces go, the Pakistan Army also recently inducted the HQ-9P HIMADS, able to shoot down any aerial threat from the Indian side, including their supersonic cruise missile and tactical ballistic missile capability, at ranges exceeding 150 kilometers. The army in the future is looking towards massive upgrades to the ERA and combat management system of the indigenous Al-Khalid I MBT, as well as inducting the next-generation Al-Khalid II MBT. The Army is also heavily investing in smaller but vitally important weapon systems, including next-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) and Man-Portable Air Defense (MANPAD) systems, as well as increasing production of the indigenous Baktar-Shikan ATGM and Anza MANPADS. Another area that the army has heavily invested in recently is cyber warfare, and the ability to disrupt the adversary’s communication and coordination between their forces. The army is also looking forward to inducted heavier HALE jet-powered drones. The addition of these game-changing and field-leveling capabilities at a budget almost 7 times less than the adversary is remarkable to say the least. The army also plans to slightly lessen the amount of active service personnel from 1.25 million to 1.2 million, focusing on a better equipped and better trained force.
The Pakistan Air Force meanwhile, is expanding its total personnel, and also expanding the number of aircraft squadrons it can field. The Air Force will continue to induct upgraded blocks of the PAC JF-17 Thunder lightweight fighter, currently forming the backbone of the PAF. The JF-17C, its latest variant, is a 4++ generation fighter, pulling the world’s longest-ranged air to air missiles and an AESA radar, superior electronic warfare and multirole capabilities. The PAF plans to induct 50 of the JF-17C, including upgrading JF-17B Thunders to JF-17D Block III standard. Currently at PAC Kamra, the PAF is rolling out JF-17Cs and development work of the next iteration, the JF-17E Block IV continues, which will feature a new engine and redesigns in the airframe. The JF-17’s ability to conduct SEAD/DEAD missions under extreme threats of the Indian Air Force’s S-400 ADS and Rafale fighters has also been taken into account, with a complete JF-17 strike ecosystem being built, where the soon-to-be massively upgraded Karakoram Eagle AEWACS plays an integral role alongside new Global 6000 based EW jammer platforms. The JF-17C features an increased payload capacity, allowing it to carry 4 PL-15 VLRAAMs alongside two REK-III rocket-boosted glide bombs. These non-jammable winged bombs provide a much cheaper and better suited alternative to air-launched cruise missiles, especially in saturation attacks against India’s layered air defense system. JF-17Ds conducting such strikes may not even need air cover from the F-16 or J-10CP, as PL-15 equipped JF-17Cs will be more than sufficient for whatever India has in its arsenal. The air force is also going for a hi-lo mix, inducting 36 J-10CP omnirole medium-weight 4.5+ generation fighters, with plans to induct a total of at least 64. The air force also desires upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16C/D Block 52+ fighters to the F-16V or Block 70/72 standard. Another area that the air force is extensively investing is ground-based offensive electronic warfare, inducting over 40 different ground vehicle-based OECM/EW/ESM systems from China. China’s dominance over electronic warfare capability is well known. The ability to influence and hinder the adversary’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum is something that plays a very significant role in modern and emerging combat. The PAF’s capability in this domain is now of a world-class standard, better than any capability currently present in the western world, and trumping whatever limited Russian and Israeli technology India has in the EW domain. Pakistan came to know very well the importance of standoff jamming in Operation Swift Retort, and has capitalized on those advantages to the fullest degree.
Whatever weapon system the Indians can put into the theatre, we can make it blind and deaf. The PAF is also in the process of inducting a whole range of drones, including the Turkish TB-2 UCAV, the Akinci MALE UCAV (which can carry self-protection jammers alongside cruise missiles, glide bombs and air to air missiles as well) and the Chinese Wing Loong II. The PAF also looks towards the future, developing the indigenous PAC Al-Karrar MALE UCAV, and working on a HALE drone as well. The air force is also developing ramjet-powered air to air missiles, a medium-range surface to air missile system, Ga-N based AESA radars, loitering munitions, cognitive electronic warfare, AI-powered manned-unmanned teaming aerial combat drones, and the Crown Jewel: the Pakistan-Turkey Fighter X, a twin-engine, stealth, fifth-generation multirole combat aircraft. In the realm of air defense, the PAF recently inducted the HQ-9B HIMADS, able to shoot down enemy aerial threats from over 250 kilometers away, as well as LD-3000 CRAM system for point air defense.
Moving on to the Pakistan Navy, which has the most fast-paced and noticeable modernization program out of the three services, with massive investments in new capabilities focusing on providing an anti-access, area-denial capability to Pakistan that extends hundreds of kilometers from the Pakistani coastline. After the importance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), and protecting Pakistani Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) became evident in the face of a growing threat from the Indian Navy, it was envisioned to transform the Pakistan Navy into a highly-capable force with special emphasis on optimum battle preparedness. In order to achieve this, top priority was accorded to combat-readiness and offensive capability of the Navy. On the employment side, Pakistan’s geographical position was leveraged to accrue operation advantage. This entailed, reorganizing Destroyer and Patrol Craft Squadrons into Surface Task Groups One, Two and Three and stationing them permanently at Gwadar, Ormara and Karachi respectively. Sir Creek’s Area Defense Plan has also been revised with an offensive bias through integrated strike groups comprising Marines and SSG elements. Then the Navy began an aggressive up gradation of its surface, subsurface and aerial fleet, including inductions of four Tughril-class guided missile and air defense frigates, armed with a 32-cell VLS for medium range SAMs, as well as supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles. The Navy is also building two out of four ordered Babur-class heavy corvettes, armed with a 12-cell VLS for medium-range SAMs, as well as an indigenously developed supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. The Navy is also working on a new class of guided missile frigates, completely designed and built in Pakistan, designated the Jinnah-class FFG(X). Other surface combatant include two Yarmook-class corvettes and two Yarmook Batch II class corvettes, new missile boats and a large amount of interest in acquiring modern destroyers from China, specifically the Type 052D Destroyer. New Fast Attack Craft missile boats are also being designed. Furthermore, 20 locally designed and built gun-boats will be inducted by 2025. Moving on to subsurface warfare, the Navy recently upgraded its Khalid-class submarines and are now building four out of eight ordered Hangor class SSK AIP attack submarines. Under this project, submarine design and construction capabilities are being acquired to make Pakistan from a submarine-operating navy to a submarine-builder navy. The navy is also interested in the Turkish STM-500 shallow-water attack submarine, as well as X-Craft special operations submarines. The Navy is also making massive investments in countering adversary submarine capabilities with inducting 10 long-range Sea Sultan maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft as well as acquiring 4 RAS-72 Sea Eagle ASW/MPA aircraft. Other weapons platforms in development with the navy include underwater unmanned drones, the P-282 hypersonic ship-launched anti-ship and land attack missile and directed energy weaponry. The Navy has already inducted CH-4B drones and is looking to induct an anti-submarine/maritime patrol long range MALE UCAV as well. In offensive missile technology, Pakistan Navy has made major strides into the local development of ship and submarine-launched Harbah Anti-Ship and Land-Attack Cruise Missile [AShCM & LACM] system. The Navy is also increasing in size, including but not limited to the increase the size of the Pakistan Marines to be a Division plus sized force. Similarly, the SSGN [Special Services Group (Navy) & Navy Seals] size will be increased to be a brigade-sized force by 2023.
All in all, the Pakistan Armed Forces have adopted a force modernization strategy of a balance between what it calls to be “smart induction”, focusing on emerging technologies and levering force multiplication, as well as conventional firepower upgradation and improvements, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. We are confident that even with limited and relatively very low resources and budget, the Pakistani military has never compromised on Pakistan’s national security.