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Weapons Firing Camp 2001

The country will continue to maintain a minimum deterrence direly needed to ensure its security, said Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf while addressing as chief guest at the PAF's Weapons Firing Camp 2001.

The PAF held an engaging firing demonstration at its Sonmiani firing range in Balochistan, 75 km to the west of Karachi, utilising all types of its fighter aircraft and the FT-5 trainer aircraft that delivered missiles, bombs and rockets on designated targets.

The firing demonstration was held on the last day of PAF Weapons Firing Camp 2001, which commenced on March 16. Over 1,150 personnel including 65 pilots from 20 squadrons participated in the camp, which was aimed at giving practice and confidence to the entire range of PAF combat crew and validate its air-to-air inventory and provide realistic training opportunities, as described by AOC, Headquarters, Southern Air Command, Air Vice Marshall Muhammad Abid Rao.

The last-day events of the camp, which included air-to-air missile firing, surface-to-air weapon firing and air-to-ground weapon delivery, were, among others, witnessed by Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf, Governor Sindh Mohammadmian Soomro, Governor Balochistan Justice (retd) Amirul Mulk Mengal, chiefs of Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir and Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza, Commander 5 Corps Lt-Gen Muzaffar H Usmani, other senior officials of the three Services and representatives from the armed forces of friendly countries.

Before the commencement of the events, AOC, Southern Air Command, Air Vice Marshall Muhammad Abid Rao informed the audience that in addition to the state-of-the-art aircraft F-16, Mirage, F-7, F-6 and A-5 aircraft flying from Masroor Base were being used as platforms. He said the F-6, which were inducted in 1966, were performing their last assignment, as those were going to be grounded.

The display started with the flying of national and PAF flags separately by two F-6 aircraft in front of the audience. The flag-past was followed by fly-past of all the participating fighter aircraft. The formation led by the F-16, flanked on the right wing by a F-7P and a Mirage and on the left wing by a F-6 and an A-5 maintaining a distance of only 10 feet from wing tip to wing tip, at a speed exceeding 700 feet per second and displayed a final bomb burst.

The next event was the firing of ANZA surface-to-air missile by the Air Defence Operators. Two missiles, fired from shoulder-launchers at two different posts, engaged the drone and specially the star shell. This followed a series of thrilling and impressive performance by the aircraft as part of the air-to-air firing. Twelve aircraft, including the FT-5 trainer aircraft, launched one missile each against a shell target.

The aircraft launched their weapons and engaged the targets directly in most of the cases, which reflected the expertise of PAF pilots. During the air-to-air firing session the missile inventory comprised US origin weapons (AIM-9P, AIM 9L) and the French Matra (R 550 Magic).

The launching of missiles by 12 aircraft was followed by air-to-ground weapons delivery. The audience had a unique experience of witnessing the delivery of MK-82 Snake Eye retarded bombs and Durandal anti-runway special weapons that were delivered by Mirage.

The first to appear were three Mirage aircraft of No. 2 Tactical Attack Squadron in close formation. They dropped the 500lb Snake Eye bombs from a low level at high speed against a variety of targets including troops concentration areas, convoys, armoured concentrations and lines of communication. The Snake Eye has a special tail unit which decelerates the bomb after it is released and affords it the optimum impact.

The next in the air-to-ground sequences were two Mirages that delivered the Durandal Bombs. The aircraft running together positioned themselves for attack on the runways and taxi tracks simulated for the purpose. The drag chute of the Durandal blossoms upon release from the aircraft, stabilising and placing it at an optimum angle for impact. Then its rocket motor is fired which thrusts it down to strike and penetrate deep into the surface. The next event on card was dropping of 200lbs bombs each by three A-5 aircraft, which are old but potent ground attack platforms. The A-5 aircraft approached from left side, targeted the vehicular convoy while maintaining a distance of less than 50 ft from each other and surely the concentration by the pilots was recognizable.

The last event of the day was rocket attack by F-6 aircraft. Three aircraft appeared from right side, split in front of the audience and positioned themselves to attack the tented target. The F-6 aircraft can expend 14 of 68mm rockets and that capability was witnessed in practice. The 68mm high speed rockets achieve supersonic velocity before impact, and these are specially effective against armour variety like tanks, APCs and soft structures. In the end, Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir presented mementos to General Pervez Musharraf and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza.