Pakistan Air Force

From Academic Kids


The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) (Pakistan Fiza'ya in Urdu) is the Aviation branch of the Pakistan armed forces.



The Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF) was formed in 1947 right after the Partition of the Subcontinent. The RPAF began with 2,332 personnel, a fleet of 24 Tempest II fighter-bombers, 16 Hawker Typhoon fighters (also called Tempest I), two H.P.57 Halifax bombers, 2 Auster aircraft, twelve T-6G Harward trainers and ten Tiger Moth biplanes. It also got eight C-47 Dakota cargo planes which it used to transport supplies to soldiers fighting in the 1948 War of Independence in Kashmir against India. It also started with 7 operational airbases scattered all over the provinces. The prefix Royal was removed when Pakistan became an Islamic Republic on 23rd March, 1956. It has since been called Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

The 1950s saw the PAF join the jet age with the purchase of British-made Attacker jets. While these jets were built for Naval Aviation, the PAF made full use of them in many land based operations. Initially, much of the PAF's equipment came from the United Kingdom in the beginning. As the Cold War heated up, the government of Pakistan allied itself with the United States against India and its communist ally Soviet Union. As a result, they began receiving American defense equipment: notably the F-86 Sabre which would form the backbone of the PAF until the mid-'70s. The PAF recorded the first kill on 10 April, 1959 when an Indian Air Force Canberra plane on photo reconnaissance mission over the Rawalpindi was shot down.

Missing image
These are the No.19 Squadron pilots who struck IAF Base Pathan Kot in a basic textbook maneuver on 6 September 1965, destroying all MiG-19 aircraft on the ground.

Major Conflicts

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 the PAF recorded the first combat kill of the war with a Mach 2 Aircraft when a F-104 Starfighter shot down a Dassault Mystere of the Indian Air Force. The PAF also was effective at repelling Indian attacks and launching counter-offensives. Though the war ended in a stalemate, the PAF was hailed in Pakistan for its performance. However, the United States placed an embargo on Pakistan during the war and the PAF turned to the People's Republic of China and France to replace lost equipment. From China it acquired Shenyang F-6s and from France it acquired Dassault Mirage IIIs. F-86 Sabres were also acquired from Iran.

In between the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the PAF sent its pilots to many Arab nations during the Six-Day War. Pakistani pilots flew in the Air Forces of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, recording 3 kills without losing any of their own planes.

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 saw Pakistan defeated in the east and the subsequent formation of Bangladesh. The PAF was heavily outnumbered in the East (only one air base existed there in Dhaka). In the West, there were minor losses and overall, the PAF had lost only a quarter of its airforce in the war. The achievement of the air force was commendable in light of the poor performance by the other military wings, the army and the navy.

During the Yom Kippur War, sixteen PAF pilots volunteered for service in the Air Forces of Egypt and Syria. But by the time they arrived, Egypt had agreed to a cease-fire. The PAF pilots then became instructors in the Syrian Air Force at Dumayr Air Base.

PAF since 1971 War

Following the War of 1971, the PAF began to phase out the F-86 Sabre and other older jets, replacing them with more French made Dassault Mirage IIIs and Dassault Mirage Vs and Chinese made Shenyang F-6s and FT-5s.

The 1980s brought an invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. This increased tensions for Pakistan which did not want to face a Soviet invasion from the western border. This also led to increased aid to Pakistan from the United States and allowed the PAF to obtain the F-16 which proved to be the most capable plane in the inventory of the PAF, and remains so to this day. The PAF recorded numerous kills with these F-16s against the Afghanistan Air Force, which would often intrude into Pakistani airspace. The PAF also purchased F-7 Skybolts and A-5s from China. The F-7 is now the main interceptor in the PAF's inventory.

Missing image
A PAF F-16 over blue skies of Pakistan.

The 1990s brought sanctions from the United States against Pakistan for its nuclear program. This forced Pakistan to rely heavily on China for military aid. Pakistan and China also worked together to develop the K-8 trainer, and continued cooperation is going into the development of the JF-17 project which should provide both nations with a next-generation fighter that they need. This project is a major joint venture between Pakistan Air Force and China Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation along with Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC). The Research and Development cost of this project is between 450 to 500 million US dollars. This multi-million dollar project is financed up to 50%-59% by government of Pakistan. Estimated cost per aircraft will be around 20 million US dollars which makes it excellent option for export market.

Currently the PAF operates F-16s, F-7s, Dassault Mirage IIIs and Dassault Mirage Vs, and the A-5 in the attack role. The Shenyang F-6 was phased out in 2003. The C-130 Hercules continues to be used in Cargo duties. MiG-15s are retained in the trainer role, as are the K-8s. Other planes which were procured from the United States included: F-94 Starfires, F-84 Thunderjets, C-130 Hercules and eventually the Mach 2 F-104 Starfighter (Pakistan was the first Asian nation to operate a Mach 2 jet).

However, Pakistan had been hampered by sanctions when it advanced itself in nuclear technology to counter the Indian nuclear test that occurred on May 24, 1974. Thus, Pakistan could not get new F-16s since the 1990s that it badly needed to improve its air defenses. This all changed when the US recently lifting the sanctions on the sale and allowing Pakistan to buy 86 latest F-16s in its War on Terror. India on the contrary has large supply of Russian aircrafts, notably, the latest Sukhoi Su-30MKIs, moreover India has the capability to manufacture the Jaguar aircraft under license which acts as a nuclear delivery vehicle.

Personnel and Command

The Air Force has about 65,000 active personnel with about 10,000 reserves. The Chief of the Air Staff holds the operational and administrative powers. He is assisted by a Vice Chief of Air Staff and 4 Deputy Chiefs of the Air Staff who control and administer the Administration, Operations, Maintenance and Electronics divisions of the PAF respectively. In addition, there are 4 non-operational directorates for Training, PR, Air Intellegence and Recuitment. The Air Headquarters as the HQ is called is situated in Rawalpindi. Major Airforce bases are at Shorkot, Karachi, Quetta, Kamra, Peshawar, Multan and Lahore. In addition there are many operational bases and satellite airfields and civilian runways.

The airbase in Kamra is named for Rashid Minhas who is honored in Pakistan as a Hero Martyr, and was given the highest honor of the Nishan-E-Haider. He is the only Haider from the Pakistan Air Force to receive it. The PAF Base Mushaf at Sargodha, is named in honor of Air Chief Marshall Mushaf Ali Mir, Shaheed.

PAF is also striving to modernize its image by inducting women pilots, a first of its kind in the muslim world. BBC World (


The PAF emblem has an eagle with spread wings perched in the centre of the roundel. Called the "Shaheen" the eagle is a traditional eastern symbol. The verse is in Urdu and it means "Be it land or sea, all is beneath my wings".


Fighter/Attack Jets


Trainer Jets



The PAF uses a green and white roundel with green being the outer color. It resembles the low-visibility roundel used by the Royal Air Force. The tail marking is simply the flag of Pakistan.


External links

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation


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