By AZHAR MASOOD
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Air-force inducted Swedish SAAB 2000 five air and land surveillance aircraft in its fleet. The deal with SAAB of Sweden was initiated in 1996 when this aircraft was available at 650 million US dollars. When in 1998 Pakistan tested its nuclear capability Sweden clamped sanctions against Pakistan.
Due to rapid political changes in Pakistan finally the deal was struck at 1.2 billion US dollars per aircraft. Well informed sources told Pakistan Times,though an old technology former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz delayed the deal for numerous purposes and finally when Pakistan lifted these aircraft it had to pay much higher prices.
According to a statement from PAF Public Relations The first Saab 2000 Erieye aircraft for the PAF was rolled out in Sweden and prepared for flight trials by the year end after being equipped with a full suite of mission systems, including radars and avionics. ‘The Pakistan Air Force achieved a major landmark in its Airborne Early Warning Program with the roll out of its first SaaB2000 AEW & C in a simple but impressive ceremony at the Saab facility in Sweden,’ the PAF statement said.
The aircraft will be put through trials before being delivered to the PAF in 2009, according to officials. The PAF plans to have a fleet of five SaaB 2000 Erieye aircraft. Pakistan signed a contract with Saab for the AWACS in June 2006and the aircraft have been specially developed to the PAF’s requirements.
The aircraft will also be equipped with electronic surveillance support systems for intelligence gathering and a full set of defensive aids. The project merges Saab’s 2000 turboprop aircraft with Ericsson’s Erieye radar system. Pakistan’s Air Chief, Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said, ‘The acquisition of airborne early warning capability by the PAF would greatly enhance PAF’s defensive capability and was an essential part of its modernization efforts.’
‘The achievement of AEW & C capability will provide a much needed boost to Pakistan’s security needs,’ he added. ‘This ceremony is considered an important milestone which ensures timely procurement of state-of-the-art technology of Erieye radar onboard Saab 2000 aircraft to PAF,’ the statement said.