Pakistan is on the cusp of joining an elite group of countries capable of manufacturing unmanned aircraft capable of killing as well as spying, a senior defence official has claimed. At present, only Israel and US have combat drone capability.
Publicly, Islamabad, which officially objects to lethal drone strikes carried out by the CIA along its border with Afghanistan, says it is only developing remote-controlled aircraft for surveillance purposes.
But last week, during a major arms fair held in Karachi, military officials briefed some of Pakistan’s closest allies about efforts by the army to develop its own combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
“The foreign delegates were quite excited by what Pakistan has achieved,” said the official, who was closely involved with organising the four-day International Defence Exhibition and Seminar . “They were briefed about a UAV that can be armed and has the capability to carry a weapon payload.”
The official said Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to friendly countries, principally Turkey and the Gulf, that it can be self-sufficient in a technology that is revolutionising warfare and which is currently dominated by a handful of countries that do not readily share the capability.
“It does not have the efficiency and performance as good as Predator,” he said, referring to the US combat drone widely used to attack militant targets. “But it does exist.”
He gave no details about the capabilities of the aircraft, or even its name.
Huw Williams, an expert on unmanned systems at Jane’s Defence Weekly, expressed doubts that Pakistan could have succeeded in progressing very far from the “pretty basic” small reconnaissance drones.