THAL RANGE (Jhang), April 6 A spectacular firepower demonstration by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) here on Tuesday marked the culmination of the first phase of the largest war games, High mark 2010, conducted by the air force since 1989, which covered the entire country.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was the chief guest at the display. He was accompanied by Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Tariq Majid, Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Basheer, members of parliament and diplomats of friendly countries.
The event, which aimed to demonstrate the operational and tactical capabilities of the air force as well as its levels of preparedness included far more than the traditional display of air acrobatics, speeding planes and aircraft dropping the national flags and welcomes notes.
Beginning with two speeding mirage aircraft which crossed the sound barrier, the more dramatic spectacles were provided by the bombing raids carried out by the PAF's various aircraft.
Hence, F-16 and JF-17 thunder aircraft carried out bombing raids, at different speeds and heights, and with different weapons payloads.
For instance, the two F-16 flew at a height of 250km and at a speed of 480 knots to drop 84 bombs of 2000 pounds at designated targets.
In a similar vein, a counter-terrorism exercise was carried out in which air force and army paratroopers were dropped from air to raid a 'hideout' of militants.
However, what generated even more interest were the segments which displayed the air force's newly acquired technology and weapons. These included the mid-air fuelling of two mirage aircraft by the newly acquired refueller, which the PAF has bought from Ukraine, and the first public display of a new long-range precision guided missile.
The air force also used the occasion to display its SAAB Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system. This will allow the PAF to detect all aircraft taking off from and landing at the Indian airbases close to Pakistan.
More important still, the system is capable of identifying the type of aircraft, the weapons systems they are equipped with and even the altitude they are operating at.
The system will enable the military to have advance intimation in case of a move for pre-emptive or surprise attack from across the border.
Speaking on the occasion Prime Minister Gilani said he was aware of the pressing requirements of the armed forces, especially the air force which needed extra funds for new inductions and further upgrades. “I realise that this is necessary to maintain the edge of the air force, which is the pride of the nation,” he remarked.
He added that it was Pakistan's desire to live peacefully and honourably in a stable environment. “We, however, need to test our defensive capabilities. High Mark-2010 is an opportunity to do so.”
The prime minister acknowledged that the challenges facing Pakistan were shaped by and had to be viewed in the context of destabilising international events. “These transform the global as well as regional security environment in South Asia.”
He said that despite the many external and internal challenges, Pakistan had slowly but steadily negotiated the pitfalls, and made a mark on the international scene.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman also spoke on the issue.
He explained that the second phase of the High Mark 2010 would commence on Wednesday, during which all three services -- army, air force and the navy -- would conduct joint counter-insurgency operations.