13 November 2011 - by Tony Osborne in Dubai, UAE- Flight Global
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was forced to use Google Earth to plan its early missions against militants fighting in the border regions with Afghanistan.
Speaking on the eve of the Dubai Airshow, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleiman, chief of the Pakistan Air Force, told delegates that at the beginning of its counter insurgency operations in the Bajaur Agency region in August 2008, the air force did not have the intelligence-gathering capabilities it needed for detailed mission planning.
As a result, it had to resort to use Google Earth software to plan the missions.
'It was not very useful, but it did give us an aerial view of the villages so we could see their layout,' Suleiman told Shephard at the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference (DIAC).
'We were able to use the 3D terrain view to allow our pilots to see their entry and escape routes from the target.'
Since then, the PAF has taken delivery of Goodrich DB-110 reconnaissance pods fitted to its fleet of F-16s and a handful of Star Safire III EO/IR turrets, which have been fitted to the noses of C-130 transport aircraft allowing them to be used as a long-endurance ISR platform.
The aircraft are flown by PAF crews but with the sensor operated by Pakistan Army personnel using a mission system fitted in the cargo hold, rather like that used on the US Marine Corps Harvest Hawk KC-130J.
Suleiman said that the PAF has flown around 650 missions using the Star Safire system on the C-130, adding that the system has been hugely appreciated by ground commanders. There had also been some 500 sorties using the DB-110.
Since the beginning of PAF operations against the militants in the region, the air arm has dropped some 10,600 weapons against 4,600 targets.
During operations in the Swat Valley, which began in May 2009, the PAF dropped 1,700 laser-guided bombs as they attacked militant positions in preparation for the movement of ground forces.