Thursday, December 18, 2008
By Rauf Klasra
ISLAMABAD: In an effort to help the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) boost its air defence capability, Islamabad has struck a $278 million deal with Beijing to purchase a modern Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), legislators were informed here on Wednesday.
Pakistan is said to be the first country in the region to buy the Chinese AWACS system, which Beijing started developing in 2004 after the Americans stopped the Israeli government from selling the system worth $1billion to Beijing.
Under mounting pressure from Washington, Tel Aviv scrapped the contract to the disappointment of the Chinese, who badly needed the system for possible use against Taiwan. The details of the contract between Pakistan and China were placed before the National Assembly on Wednesday by Minister for Defence Production Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi.
The documents placed before the National Assembly reveal that under the multi-million dollar deal, China will provide the system to Pakistan in the next four years. The most important thing from Pakistan’s perspective is that China has agreed to supply the system on “deferred” payment. The contract has been awarded to MS CETC China.
The story of China starting the development of its own airborne warning and control system is interesting. Until 2004, Beijing had not even thought of making its own AWACS system. Just like Pakistan, China was heavily dependent on foreign countries in improving the performance of its air force.
Information gathered from various sources revealed China launched work on its own system after the US blocked its move to develop radar surveillance aircraft. Washington even vetoed the sale of such systems China wanted to deploy in the Taiwan Strait. Military specialists said the Chinese system used domestically-produced advanced radar mounted on a Russian-made Il-76 transport aircraft.
Chinese military technicians have been struggling to acquire AWACS-type equipment ever since the United States coerced Israel in 2000 into backing out of a $1 billion agreement on selling to China four of its Phalcon phased-array radar systems.
The systems would have used Il-76 aircraft as a platform, but the main US concern in blocking the sale was that China would gain a military advantage over Taiwan. Moreover, under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US government pledged to help Taiwan defend itself against a possible Chinese attack, meaning the US forces could become involved, should fighting erupt.
For the same reason, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force leaders were determined to acquire such planes. After the 2000 Israeli fiasco, the PLA made it a matter of pride to prove to the Americans they could not be denied AWACS.
Initially, China turned to Russia, its traditional source of military equipment. Beijing concluded a deal to buy four Beriev A-50 Mainstay radar planes, which are roughly the Russian equivalent of the US Air Force’s E-3 Sentry AWACS. The purchase was believed to be the first phase of an agreement for eight Russian aircraft.
At the same time, Chinese scientists were working on their own radar equipment. It is not known whether the Russian aircraft were ever delivered, which would have provided a look at the technology, or whether the technicians obtained help from Israeli or Russian counterparts.
Pakistan to buy Chinese AWACS to boost air defence - report
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan is to buy an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) from China to boost its air defences, a Pakistani newspaper reported on Thursday.
The News newspaper said a $278 million agreement had been struck for Pakistan to get the Chinese system within four years, on a deferred payment basis.
Pakistani defence procurement officials were not immediately available for comment.
The report comes as relations between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have been severely strained by last month's militant attacks in Mumbai, which India has blamed on "elements" within Pakistan.
Pakistan would be the first country to buy the Chinese AWACS system which China only started producing in 2004, the News said.
Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding with China in November 2006 for long-term collaboration in defence production including development of an airborne early warning surveillance system.
China and Pakistan have been allies for years and China is Pakistan's biggest supplier of defence equipment.
Last month, Pakistan was granted a $7.6 billion loan by the International Monetary Fund to avert a balance of payments crisis and prevent the government defaulting on its international debt obligations.