134353    12/14/2007 10:14    07ISLAMABAD5283    Embassy Islamabad    SECRET        "VZCZCXRO1838 PP RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHIL #5283 3481014 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 141014Z DEC 07 FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3847 INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 7919 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 8403 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 4346 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 2968 RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3385 RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY"    "S E C R E T ISLAMABAD 005283

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2017 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PK SUBJECT: PAKISTAN: ATTEMPTED INTERCEPTS OF COALITION AIRCRAFT

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (S) SUMMARY.  On December 11, the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) Liaison Officer (LNO) to the Office of the Defense Representative (ODRP) told the ODRP Air Cell that PAF aircraft had launched to intercept a Coalition aircraft that had crossed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border via the standard Coalition air corridor.  The aircraft was clearly a Coalition airplane.  General Helmly has sent a stiff letter to the Chairman JCS and the head of the Air Force and requested an urgent meeting.  This action could have resulted in serious consequences, so Post is raising the issue with Pakistan senior military leadership.  This is the second incident of this type.  END SUMMARY.

2. (S) At 0602Z on December 11, the Pakistan military detected an aircraft within the established (""the boulevard"") airspace that serves as the flight corridor for Coalition forces through Pakistani airspace.  (Approximately 150 Coalition aircraft traverse the ""the boulevard"" each day.) The aircraft entered Pakistan's airspace from Afghanistan per established procedures, but its transponder code (or ""squawking"") failed to identify it as one of those scheduled to cross the border.  Meanwhile, the U.S. CENTCOM Air Cell located at Post was working to establish the identity of the specific aircraft.

3. (S) Shortly after 0700Z the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Liaison Officer (LNO) reported that Pakistani fighters were scrambling to intercept the aircraft.  A few minutes later PAF was notified that the plane had been positively identified by the Air Cell.  The PAF LNO now says the interceptors never launched.

4. (S) We are reporting this because it is not the first incident where the PAF has launched or prepared to launch interceptors against what were clearly Coalition aircraft, but which were not previously identified on an air tasking order or were squawking an incorrect code.  Such incidents have the potential to result in a serious international incident.  Scrambling armed fighters to intercept armed or support Coalition aircraft creates an unnecessarily dangerous situation.  Any aircraft entering from Afghanistan can safely be presumed to be a Coalition asset as the airspace is monitored and controlled by ISAF.

5. (S)  The US CENTCOM Air Cell located at Post is also following up with appropriate ISAF elements to address the fact that the aircraft in question was not adhering to all established procedures for flying the corridor.  However, the pilot's failure to squawk the correct code only led to difficulty in identifying the exact aircraft - multiple other indicators identified it as Coalition aircraft, especially by flying within the Pakistan prescribed and approved corridor, squawking in the clear, and demonstrating no aggressive or threatening posture.

6. (S) We are engaging with GoP to address this issue.  ODRP Chief has drafted a message stressing our concerns and citing the dangers of such intercepts to Pakistan's Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Tariq Majeed and Air Chief Marshall Tanvir, and will raise in meetings as appropriate.

 

PATTERSON "?