London, Oct. 2 (PTI): Pakistan plans to buy unmanned air vehicles from the United States to match India’s sophisticated surveillance equipment, a leading defence weekly has said.
“Pakistan is looking to buy the RQ-1A predator or other unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) from the US to satisfy its urgent need for sophisticated surveillance equipment to monitor its borders,” the Jane’s Defence Weekly said in its latest issue quoting senior Pakistani military officials.
In separate interviews with the weekly, deputy chief of the Pakistan army staff Gen. Mohammad Yusuf Khan and chief of air staff Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir said acquisition of UAVs was a top priority.
“A UAV (capability) is critical,” Khan said. Mir said the “first priority would be to equip ourselves to watch what is on the border and across the border.”
“The West should be forthcoming in providing us with that (UAV) capability because if nothing else it will help in preventing a war,” Khan said.
According to him “most wars have taken place due to miscalculations” but Pakistani forces “have not been able to judge (India’s) intentions,” particularly those involving troop concentrations along the Line of Control.
Mir said at present Pakistan is looking for “two or three dozen” Predators to cover the borders with Afghanistan and India.
“A lot of things have gone unchecked on the western border (with Afghanistan),” he said.
Both officers said a request for Predators has already been forwarded to the US government, adding Pakistan would be interested in other Western systems as an alternative.
Gaining the appropriate export licences has not been possible, however, because most governments “are still under the influence of American export policy,” Khan said.
He said India “has a number of UAVs, I think it is 30-40, may be more, and these are at the moment flying over our area.”
Khan claimed systems such as Israel Aircraft Industries’ Searcher II and an unnamed South African-built UAV, believed to be the Kentron RPV-2 Seeker, had been acquired by India.
Asked whether Washington would approve the export of the Predator or other UAVs to Pakistan, a senior US defence official said “such kind of co-operation will be discussed” at the newly restarted defence consultative group meeting in Islamabad.
Pakistan is set to buy 10 passenger aircraft from Boeing after the US export-import banks agreed to provide $125 million credit.
This is the first time that the bank is underwriting a deal between Pakistan and a private US firm. The Pakistan government and the Ex-Im bank signed a letter of awareness on Monday.