As nations around the world continue to build up stockpiles of more long-range weapon systems and aircraft such as drones and helicopters, the role of air defense has become all the more important for modern militaries, both in protecting vital assets and for denying the enemy airborne access within the battle space. Based around these realties Pakistan Army took it upon itself to build up a potent network of air defense layers in hopes of increasing battlefield control and relieving some pressure off the air force upon whom the main task of maintaining air defense falls upon. Furthermore, it was deemed a necessary step as Pakistan army high command learned its weaknesses in providing air cover over a moving battlefield after conducting some large-scale exercises. Hence by building up its own air defense, Pakistan Army has gained the advantage of possessing the assets it needs to protect its ground forces and effectively brought to the country ground-based air defense since majority of long-range air defense was based around PAF aircraft cover in the past. This not only frees up PAF aircraft to perform other roles but also gives Pakistan army some flexibility within strategic planning of forces placement under its own anti air cover, as well as denial for enemy.
To achieve this Pakistan army has inducted a diverse range of anti-air weapon systems which range from short range MANPADs to long range air defense missile systems, all of which comes under Pakistan Army Air Defense Command. This inventory can be listed as follows:
Anti-Aircraft Guns: While Anti-Aircraft guns have a general reputation of being obsolete or old fashioned, these class of AA weapons are very useful and important within air defense domain. Such weapons are mainly used in Pakistan army as automated/guided AA guns with reasonable range and wide array of roles. Not only are they used by Pakistan for shooting down close flying aircraft such as jets, drones and helicopters but also used for defense against missiles, bombs and artillery with the use of counter artillery radars and laser guidance systems. Basically, these systems are able to destroy incoming munitions by searching and firing special ammunition at target. Furthermore, Pakistan also has a large arsenal of unguided AA guns which are mainly intended to be used for ground support due to their large caliber and high rate of fire, within emergency situations they could also be used for air defense role where everything dependents upon the operator. Pakistan Army currently operates the following guided AA guns
1: GDF-007 (AHEAD) auto cannon.
2: Type 65 (Laser/Computer guided) auto cannon.
MANPADS: MANPADS stand for (Man portable air defense systems) and are generally shoulder fired short range missiles (Typically with ranges around 6-7kms) operated by a single soldier. These are a very potent asset to possess as this can provide Pakistan ground forces the ability to take down low flying enemy aircraft such as helicopters and low flying drones). These class of weapon systems have proved their worth time and time again such as in Afghanistan against Soviet helicopters, Pakistan against Indian MIG-21 jets and most recently within Ukraine where Ukrainian soldiers have claimed many modern Russian air assets. Overall, this is a must have weapon class as Pakistani soldiers can deny enemy aircraft freedom of movement at low altitudes and allows regular troops the ability to shoot down highly expensive enemy air assets. Their beauty is in the fact they are highly mobile, can be spread out and used everywhere, especially in cover to ambush unsuspecting enemy aircraft. Pakistan army currently operates
1: Anza Series.
2: RBS 70.
3: FIM-92 Stinger.
4: FN-16 (Not confirmed, few sources claim).
Short Range SAMs: Short range SAMs are air defense missile systems within Pakistan army, most suitable for providing air cover to mobile ground forces against larger air threats such as jets, helicopters and drones that dare come close enough. Such systems are easier to hide, faster to move around and set up into firing position than medium and longer-range SAMs. All this grants Pakistan army the ability to set up quickly a necessary air defense layer within a quick moving battle space and protect high value targets. Pakistan Army currently operates only one Short Range SAM system
Medium Range SAMs: Medium Range SAMs as the name implies are air defense missile systems operated by Pakistan army to monitor and defend an extended larger airspace. These systems have higher altitude and range making them ideal for enforcing a large denial zone to enemy air assets and shooting down designated air targets such as high-flying jet aircraft. These systems additionally give more time to react due to their detection and firing range. Pakistan Army currently operates only one system in this class
Long Range SAMs: Long Range SAMs as the name implies are air defense missile systems operated by Pakistan army to create a strategically positioned no entry zone due to their highly lethality and extreme long ranges. These systems can monitor and defend a very large extended region extending cover deep inside enemy territory as well complicating things for an adversary as they would think twice before allowing highly valued assets to go airborne. Pakistan army only recently inducted this class of systems recently and obtained the ability to shoot down high valued aircraft over hundreds km away, effectively making this a strategic deterrence asset. Pakistan army currently operates only one system in this class
Overall, with all this inventory combined Pakistan army has acquired the ability to defend itself during large scale military operations and Pakistan’s strategic locations from airborne threats. The large inventory of Man pads and AA guns gives the Army regular infantry a way to deal with immediate close-range threats whereas the short and medium range assets protect Army mobile ground forces from air raids/shifting treats and finally long-range systems give it strategic leverage over an adversary. Hence, we can conclude that Army air defense buildup has achieved what it sought out to accomplish which is becoming a highly dependable and self-reliant air defense force.