WASHINGTON: Pakistan brought a unique set of skills to US air exercises, says an American general, praising the willingness of Pakistani pilots to collaborate and to get the most out of the training scenarios.

Pakistan Air Force F-16C/D aircraft travelled more than 12,300 kilometres to participate in Red Flag 16-4 exercises held here from Aug15 to Aug 26.

The US Air Force News Service (AFNS) reported that the training allowed the Pakistan and US air forces to continue building and strengthening their relationship. It provided them the chance to improve integration, further training and enhance the readiness of air operations.

The Israeli and UAE air forces also participated in the exercises.

“The F-16 has been the lynchpin in accomplishing our mutual desired objectives,” said Air Vice Marshal Syed Noman Ali, the deputy chief of air staff. “At the strategic level it has been extremely valuable. On the capability enhancement and objective achievement on the ground, this aircraft has been the most useful.”

Maj Gen Rick B. Mattson, the chief of the US Office of the Defence Representative in Pakistan, said it was “absolutely phenomenal” to have a partner who shared these objectives and looked at this as an opportunity to not only get better as a force but also to better integrate with other forces.

“That has been a major focus for the team that has been here and I have already heard about ways they are able to integrate better through technology and we will try to work on that part,” he said.

According to the AFNS, not only the Pakistani pilots but their maintenance team was also impressive.

“I have a lot of experience in the Middle East and this is a very unique capability that they have,” Maj Gen Mattson said. “When you go through the maintenance facility, bays, it’s all Pakistan enlisted working on these aircraft.”

Integration has been a major focus for Red Flag 16-4 and the Pakistan Air Force has played a key role in helping achieve that goal, the AFNS report added.

“When you have a force that is that professional and is dedicated to training and working together as a coalition you are going to get better as a group and I think that has been the biggest lesson from this,” Gen Mattson said.

The report pointed out that the exercise helped both US and Pakistani air forces learn each other’s strengths and utilise those strengths in real-world situations.

“Whenever we’ve been together with the US in terms of an exercise or other engagements it has been amazing, productive and [a] mutually rewarding experience on both sides,” AVM Ali said. “Whether its actual strategies that have been going on in the region or it has been exercises that train for certain events, I would expect this type of relationship to grow stronger in the future.”

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2016


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