Pakistan observes its Air Force day on September 7, a day after the National Defence day. It marks 55 years of the India-Pakistan war fought in 1965. The day is observed to pay homage to the soldiers for sacrificing their lives in defence of the country.
This year, Islamabad celebrated the Air Force Day with a contingent of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) presented guard of honour at the tomb of Rashid Minhas – Pakistan’s only fighter pilot who was awarded the highest decoration of Nishan-e-Haider.
Even after 73 years of independence from the British rule, the neighbours – India and Pakistan stand neck to neck and have been engaged in several clashes over the years.
The Air Force of both the nations have played a major role in these clashes trying to claim superiority over each other. Focusing on the current state, both the Air Forces have been trying to modernise its fleet by adding new fighters.
Indian vs Pakistan Air Force
Quantitatively, India has an edge over Pakistan as the Indian Air Force (IAF) is the fourth-largest air force in the world after the US, China, and Russia with around 1,70,000 personnel and 1,500 aircraft. However, the IAF currently has a ratio of 1.5 pilots per aircraft as against 2.5 pilots per aircraft for the PAF.
India’s squadron numbers have also decreased which is at its lowest point since the 1970s with just 28 fighter squadrons operational as against the authorised 42. Although three squadrons will be inducted this year, while only two squadrons will be withdrawn from operational service, as per Business Standard.
India has recently acquired its newest Rafale fighters. Following the induction of the first five french origin fighters, the IAF has begun practising mountain flying.
In an opinion piece by Angad Singh and Harsh V. Pant, who are both associated with Observer Research Foundation, the deal for the 36 French fighters won’t change the “hard reality that, as airpower, India is falling far behind”.
Other than Rafale, IAF’s primary air superiority fighters are the Su-30MKI, MiG-29 air defence aircraft and Mirage 2000 multi-role aircraft among others. The indigenous Light Combat Tejas is supposed to replace MiG-21s.
On the other side of the border, Pakistan has 22 squadrons with JF-17, F-16, Mirage III, Mirage V, and F-7 jets. JF-17 jets were jointly developed by Pakistan and China with the latter being the major partner.
As per EurAsian Times report, the latest, powered-up version of the JF-17 fighter jet reportedly features technologies from China’s high-end J-20 fighter jet that will immensely boost its combat efficiency.\
Pakistan had also used the JF-17 to retaliate against India’s Balakot Strike. The PAF managed to shoot-down a MiG-21 Bison in aerial combat besides capturing IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India on March 1, 2019.
“Pakistan would not have responded on February 27 last year to the Balakot air strikes if India had the French-manufactured jets then,” former Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal (retd) BS Dhanoa said in reference to the retaliation carried out by PAF, a day after the Balakot strike.
However, Pakistan’s Air capabilities were questioned in May 2011 when US seals flew from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s innermost city of Abbottabad without PAF’s awareness, killing Osama Bin Laden.
With the ongoing Kashmir issue, where both the nations claim sovereignty over the region, the issue has again caught heat after India revoked Article 370 last year that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and a substantial amount of autonomy to frame its own laws.
Even though India has a clear advantage over Pakistan in terms of both quality and quantity especially after the addition of Rafale jets, PAF has shown time and time again that despite a small fleet of jets and limited defence budget, they are no way inferior to the Indian Air Force.