Lahore-based Defence and Security analyst Ammad Malik wrote in the Diplomat (May 27) that while the Pakistan Air Force needs additional platforms to balance the Indian Air Force, given Islamabad’s intimate relationship with China and the economic problems currently gripping the country, acquiring the JH-7 heavy strike fighter can both provide its navy with much needed aerial strike capability as well as free up PAF’s core assets to engage with the IAF for supremacy over the battlefields of Kashmir and Punjab. He said the JH-7, while utilising an old air frame, is a highly effective aircraft for deep strike operations. It uses a Chinese indigenously manufactured derivative of the Rolls Royce Spey engine, Its utility lies in the fact that it is designed specifically for sustained low altitude flight below the radar horizon of enemy naval vessels, but this decreases much of the engines’ range. The JH-7 also complements the Pakistan Navy’s combat doctrine, which is based on the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) blueprint. Acquisition of the JH -7 by Pakistan would provide Islamabad with lethal capability to considerably limit the manoeuvring capacity of the Indian Navy in the proximity of Karachi port. Also, the JH-7, with its longer combat range, heavy payload capacity, and ability to fly under enemy radar cover provides Islamabad with an offensive capacity targeted at India’s protracted western coastline. Hence, acquisition of the JH-7 by Pakistan serves both defensive and offensive purposes. The improved JH-7A variant currently in service with the PLA Air Force is capable of carrying over seven tonnes of armament, including four KD-88/YJ-83 anti-ship missiles. He concluded that as prospects of inducting foreign jets from Western countries appear bleak, the JH-7 appears to be the PAF’s only viable option to assert itself in a volatile region.

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