Pakistan May Participate In Red Flag Exercise
September 19, 2008
by John M. Doyle
The Defense Department is inviting the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) to participate in the Red Flag aerial combat training exercise next year at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
An Air Force spokesman told Aerospace DAILY there is “a possibility that the Pakistani Air Force will participate in a Red Flag in 2009.” Group Capt. Ahmer Shehzad, the air attaché at the Pakistani embassy, confirmed that the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) had been invited to Red Flag, but he said officials in Islamabad will decide whether to accept the invitation. India, Pakistan’s regional rival – the two countries have fought three wars since they both gained independence in 1947 – participated in Red Flag for the first time this past summer.
First indications of Pakistan’s participation came at a hearing before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee earlier this week in which State and Defense Department witnesses tried to persuade skeptical lawmakers of the merits of reprogramming more than $250 million in military assistance funding to pay for upgrades to Pakistan’s aging fleet of F-16A/Bs (Aerospace DAILY, Sept. 17).
Bush administration officials insisted that the U.S.-funded upgrades to Pakistan’s 1980s F-16s will be used to counter al Qaeda terrorism – not Indian air superiority.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Burton M. Field, vice director of strategic plans and policy on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told committee members the upgrades will allow the PAF to conduct close air support and precision strikes at night – which it can’t do now.
Field said Pakistan’s participation in Red Flag would be preceded by “a series of progressive building block approaches over in their own country, getting them ready for that large scale program.”
Link: PAF Falcons - News Section