Pakistan Strategic Forum (PSF), a non-government internet based panel discusses about the ‘Fighter Jet Procurement Program’ of Bangladesh Air Force.
We point out the deliberate disinformation or lack of knowledge on the part of the panel members about Bangladesh’s defence sector. Defence is an important sector no doubt, but without a strong economy no country can sustain a war effort and this itself is the biggest deterrent factor as far as Bangladesh’s overall defence is concerned.
While the Pakistani panel members tone and language are completely inappropriate they try to drive home points in relation to aircraft acquisitions, maintenance and competency of the Bangladesh Air Force. They maintain that it will be impossible for Bangladesh Air Force to maintain and operate those aircraft even though at present times Bangladesh’s economy is 40% greater than that of Pakistan and a Bangladeshi Taka (BDT) is double the value of a Pakistani Rupee (PKR). In 50 years Bangladesh has comprehensively surpassed Pakistan in all socio-economic sectors to emerge as an Asian Tiger economy. By 2025 Bangladesh as an aspiring nation is set to become one of the top 25 economies of the world. Defence will also move forward in time with Bangladesh’s economic rise.
Bangladesh Air Force has initiative comprehensive modernisation programs that encompasses men, material and infrastructure development in accordance with Forces Goal 2030.
Among these programs acquisition of combat aircraft occupies a very important pillar that will reinvigorate the air force.
The Bangladesh Air Force currently operates a mix of Chinese and Russian origin fighter aircraft, with MiG-29B being the mainstay BVR-capable fighter aircraft and F-7BG/BGI being used for interception/ground strike roles.
At this present moment Bangladesh Air Force operates only 8 MiG-29 fighters. These aircraft have been sent to Belarus to be upgraded to the MiG-29BM standard that will incorporate a new fire control radar, replace older avionics, countermeasures, electronic warfare equipment and introduce a new multi-role weapons capability to conduct air-to-air, air to surface (maritime strike) and air to ground operations using BVR-AAMs, anti-ship missiles, anti-radiation missiles and laser guided precision strike munitions. The program is to be completed by 2022 as per the air force.
It obtained Yak-130 at a time when there were plans to procure Su-30 and MiG-35. However with geo-politics of present and future Bangladesh is increasingly leaning towards Western countries for economic and security ties as its economy and political lie closely aligned to those of countries such as US and Japan as development/security partners.
The situation in Myanmar has shown Bangladeshi planners why it became more important for the Air Force to diversify its combat aircraft fleet suppliers because it could no longer count on China or Russia during times of crisis as they have deeper security ties in Myanmar.
The Bangladesh Air Force has announced the procurement of fighter aircraft worth BDT 25,000 crore for 16 aircraft. The budget covers procurement of fighter aircraft, training, instrastructure, spares and munitions for one squadron of fighter aircraft.
The aircraft will be procured from Western countries and is in line with the plan to incorporate Western aircraft, sensors and equipment in to the inventory.
As far as Multi Role Combat Aircraft are concerned the Bangladesh Air Force is primarily looking at the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale as most likely candidates for adoption.
The MRCA procurement will be followed up by a ‘single-engine backbone fighter’ that will be the workhorse for the air force. No decision has been made on this however given the upcoming prevalence of Western aircraft in the fleet possible options will include the F-16 and Jas-39.
The Pakistani and other participants in their discussion should be reminded that no air force simply procures ‘aircraft’, they procure the whole eco-system that involves training, support services and munitions. Just as Pakistan Air Force understands what it requires, how it will operate those aircraft so do other air forces. There is no lack of leadership or planning on the part of Bangladesh Air Force. Plans can be modified to address unforeseen circumstances and remedy them accordingly.
Bangladesh Air Force is utilising both Yak-130 and K-8W to sustain and develop their fighter pilots pool with respect to their current inventory of Chinese and Russian fighter aircraft.
At the same time Bangladesh Air Force is working with companies and governments of the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and US to ensure the Western aircraft acquisition and maintenance programs are realised.
We remind the Pakistanis that in no way the Bangladesh Air Force will procure JF-17 or any aircraft from controversial or unreliable sources. While we appreciate that they are discussing about the Bangladesh Air Force procurement they should separate bias, emotions and interests while they discuss procurement of other air forces.
By 2025 Bangladesh will obtain a key position in the world economy and procurement and maintenance of advanced fighter aircraft or any kind of military technology will not be the issue.
Bangladesh Air Force is a highly trained and very capable organisation. It certainly has the ability realise acquisition and operations of high-end fighters. It has already started the process on a steady pace. Countries such as India and Singapore have taken decades to select and standardise fighter aircraft. Comparatively Bangladesh Air Force procurement process is taking far less time.
As such procurements are ultimately very sensitive matters, information is not disclosed readily in the public domain, which is why most of the times opportunists, including foreign ones throw in disinformation as part of their campaign to malign Bangladesh and its armed forces. We hope Pakistan Strategic Forum (PSF) is not engaging in those, especially given the fact that Pakistan has no role in what Bangladesh Air Force or the armed forces of Bangladesh purchase or operate.
We have provided the recording of the web conference for reference to illustrate their views and understanding even though most of the discussion members are thoroughly misinformed about Bangladesh Air Force.
The discussions are in the Urdu language and informal. It is not the official view of the Government of Pakistan. As Bangladesh’s primary defence analysis, we feel it is necessary to keep these records for the public interest and assure an appropriate response to the Pakistani elements who are inimical towards Bangladesh.
Pakistan Strategic Forum (PSF) is not affiliated with the Government of Pakistan, nor does it have any insight or relationship with the Bangladesh Air Force. The discussion is shared for reference purposes only.