Growing defence industry of Pakistan

ByUmair Ali

Trainee lawyer


July 28, 2023

Defence Industry of Pakistan

Umair Ali summarises the increasing self-reliance
exhibited by Pakistani defence sector

Defence Industry of Pakistan – Right from the outset the security environment compelled Pakistani defence planners to develop the capacity and capability of defence forces to adequately face security challenges. It was considered essential to equip the defence forces with modern and technologically advanced equipment to ensure appropriate discharge of defence duties. The notion was buttressed by the painful fact that at times of need Pakistan’s allies suspended supply of arms and ammunitions to the beleaguered country as the US did in 1965 War with India and subsequent backtracking on agreements relating to provision of defence equipment. The only way out for Pakistan was to develop its indigenous defence industry and this requirement was the outcome of compulsion rather than choice for Pakistan.
The primary objective of embarking upon manufacturing defence equipment was to ensure reliable means for ensuring national security. The need was to build weapons logistics for long term use within the acceptable levels of cost. Most importantly it was needed to break the bonds of relying on procurement of defence equipment from abroad that invariably came with conditions attached to it. Pakistani defence planners were more than aware of the hazards of depending on foreign military assistance and it was obvious that they wanted to avoid such eventuality.
Pakistan was denied its due share in the distribution of defence assets at the time of partition. During the pre-partition era, some 16 ordnance factories existed in the subcontinent and they were all situated in the new state of India. Pakistan had no recourse but to take steps to develop defence industry from the scratch to cater to its security requirements. The national need to obtain reasonable self-sufficiency in defence equipment resulted in establishment of a number of industrial sectors for defence production. At present over 20 major public sector units and around 145 private sector firms are engaged in the development and manufacture of defence related products.
The beginning of defence-related equipment was made by the establishment of the Pakistan Ordnance Factory in 1951 at Wah cantonment with the objective to produce small arms, ammunition and explosives. The intense disappointment over American embargo on arms in 1965 war compelled Pakistan to shift its overwhelming arms supplies reliance from the US to China and other western countries like France and to concentrate on expanding its defence production facilities. It was followed by setting up of Heavy Mechanical Complex in Taxila in 1971 and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex was established at Kamra in 1973.
With the passage of time Pakistani defence efforts succeeded admirably and currently the country is able to produce ships, jet trainers, fighter aircrafts and main battle tanks apart from many down streams items and products. The array of weaponry produced indigenously by the defence industry of Pakistan includes assault rifles, Steyr AUG, FN F2000, C7 and C8 rifles, Colt Commando, M16, M4 Carbine, RPG-7, RPG-29, M72 LAW, Javelin, Stinger, a variation of pistols, an assortment of machine pistols, battle rifles and plenty of shot gun models such as Beretta M4, Remington 870, Striker KS23 and Ithaca Model 37 Stakeout.
Pakistan’s defence industry has used its limited financial resources in producing effective equipment that was demonstrated in successive IDEAS exhibitions and witnessed main battle tanks Al-Khalid and Al- Zarrar. Moreover, the production of T-85 II tanks is also undertaken under licence from China. HIT also produce M-109 and M-110 self-propelled guns and M-113 series of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs). Another development in this respect is HIT built APC Talah and Command Post Vehicle Sakb. Pakistan has developed an upgrade kit for the Chinese supplied Twin-37 mm light anti-aircraft guns. It also has begun to produce 122mm T-83 (Azar) Multiple Rocket System with a range of 13,400 metres. In addition Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), ANZA (shoulder fired surface-to-air missile) and Baktar Shikan anti-tank missiles (range 3,000 metres) are also produced indigenously and are considered very reliable.
An ancillary unit of defence production Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) was established in 1957 and is now successfully building passenger vessels, cargo vessels, oil carriers and bulk carriers. It also manufactures mine hunters, patrol boats, 200-tonne missile craft and floating docks up to 4,000-tonne lifting capacity. In October 2016, just a month after the US refused to subsidise new F-16s, Beijing agreed to sell eight attack submarines to Pakistan for about $5bn considered the biggest single arms export deal in the country’s history
As could be clearly deduced, Pakistan has achieved self-sufficiency in small and medium arms and is well on its way to attain the same capability with regard to all types of tank and artillery ammunition. The best part of the process is that Pakistani products are of high quality and can compete with European, American and Russian defence equipment in all aspects. Pakistan’s existing defence industry has developed the capacity to manufacture products even beyond the domestic requirements and to export the surplus in order to earn foreign exchange.
The feather in the cap of defence industry of Pakistan is that from meagre resources it developed into a very credible and prolific producer of defence equipment and currently its products are in great demand as could be borne out from the reported fact that Pakistan’s defence exports grew exponentially registering large-scale increase in its exports. It is reported that Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) had booked export orders in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Over 200 defence items including missiles, tanks, artillery guns and spare parts are being exported to more than 21 countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
Pakistan’s principal small arms and ammunitions manufacturer, Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) has reported that Saudi Arabia was the largest buyer of its merchandise. Equipment is also supplied to Italian ammunition maker Fiocchi as is also to Czechoslovak Group (CSG). Pakistan also agreed to sell 16 JF-17/FC-1 multi-role fighters to Myanmar that it is producing in collaboration with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. Additionally three JF-17s were also required by Nigeria. Pakistan will also supply its Super Mushshak trainer aircraft to Nigeria, Qatar and Turkey. As could be clearly seen, providing these aircraft to Turkey is an important development as Turkey is about to become member of the European Union. Currently, Pakistan is viewing Azerbaijan, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Sri Lanka as prospective buyers to drive this growth.
Pakistan defence manufacturers are now eying increasing sales of big-ticket equipment, most notably the JF-17 Thunder as well as complete systems manufactured by Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) and Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW). The prospects of the forthcoming Al- Khalid 2 MBT tank that is designed to employ a 1,500-hp diesel engine and will also carry noticeable improvements in its armour and electronics are rated high. Pakistan has commissioned a light armoured vehicle and miniature submarine that would not only fulfill domestic requirements but may also form the basis of competitively priced solutions for developing countries such as Turkey and Ukraine. The most significant aspect of the unprecedented growth of Pakistan’s defence industry is the sharp decrease in its reliance on weapons acquired from foreign manufacturers particularly the US.
Pakistan’s defence industry is doing its bit in promoting scientific, technological, industrial and economic advancement in the country by imparting training and providing employment to thousands of Pakistanis. The investments made in defence production usually prove smart investment for the companies, their investors and the taxpayers and substantially add to the country’s economic, political and national security. The Weekender


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