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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2673

Predator Killer

By Adnan Gill for Asian Tribune

Obama or no Obama, Predator/UAV/drone attacks on Pakistani interests will remain a common theme for the foreseeable future. Because, it’s the Think Tanks that shape the American foreign policy and not the presidents. Presidents merely execute those policies with a tinge of their own flavor.

We need to come with terms that Americans are not going to vacate from Afghanistan. Obama’s picks for the foreign policy team is a clear indication, it will be business as usual, minus NeoCon rhetoric. Obama is already taking national security advice from the Republican heavyweights, like Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser in the Bush senior’s administration. Scowcroft also happens to be close to the current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is will be staying in Obama’s Cabinet. Obama’s pick for the Secretary for State, Hillary Clinton is equally hawkish over Afghan and Pakistan policies. All of them want to beef up American presence in the Afghan theater.

Since all the indicators suggest, Americans will not pull out of Afghanistan anytime soon; therefore, Predator strikes in the future too look quite plausible. Another reality we can bank on is that Pakistani leadership will not develop spine to tell the Americans, in no uncertain terms, to stop the attacks immediately.

Obviously, Pakistan is politically and technologically too weak to pick a full-fledged fight with the sole superpower. Nobody is fending off the bloody attacks on the Pakistanis, because all the Zardari government does is wink and nod every time a predator attacks.

However, that does not mean Pakistani military too cannot adopt middle of the road strategy; meaning, neutralize the threat without engaging the Americans or waiting for Zardari’s foot-dragging to end. So how do we do that? By beating them at their own game.

Americans plainly deny and the Pakistani government readily accepts their denials that the UAVs ever violated the Pakistani airspace. In a diplomatic jargon it’s called ‘plausible deniability’. Therefore, if Pakistani military was to shoot down a UAV, that the Americans refuse to own to begin with, then how the Americans or the Zardari government could react against the action?

However, contrary to the general perception, shooting down a stealthy Predator, and that too during the pitch dark nights, is not as easy as most people imagine it to be. Considering its aeronautical characteristics and its radar cross-section, currently the PAF has no tool in its shop to consistently shoot them down.

The problem is: the Predators have a small heat and radar signatures, which makes them hard to detect. They fly above the range of anti-aircraft guns and short range anti-aircraft missiles, and too slow for any of PAF fighters to intercept. For example, the Predator’s typically fly at altitudes between 20,000-24,000 ft, they can loiter over an area of interest for up to 40 hours, cruise at speeds ranging 81-03 mph, and most significantly they can fly as slow as (stall-speed) 62 mph. In contrast, PAF’s best fighter, F-16’s stall-speed is approx twice as of Predator’s.

Fortunately, not all is lost. If Pakistanis can build a nuclear bomb and rewire its aircrafts to deliver the nukes, surely, they could come up with a solution to stop the Predator attacks too. One such solution could be jerry-rigging the domestically produced Mushshak with a gun and/or missiles.

Mushshak’s flying characteristics are compatible with the Predator’s. It can fly close to the altitudes Predators fly at (or even higher if weight is reduced). Its stall-speed is better then Predator’s and maximum speed of 146 mph is also higher than Predator’s; meaning it can successfully catch up and shoot the target without overshooting it. Its low-tech design, superior mission-readiness rate, and ability to use makeshift dirt strips makes it ideally suitable for deployment in the forward areas, without a long and complicated support-chain. Mushshak’s range of 500 miles, with two missiles and three drop tanks, enables it to remain on station (in a race track patron) for long periods. Finally, its low cost of maintenance gives the commanders ample flexibility to deploy them in large numbers.

All the PAF engineers will have to do is slap a gun and/or a wire guided missile on its external pylons. Attach NVDs (Night Vision -- Thermal Imaging -- Devices) to the helmets and shazam: you have a Predator Killer in your arsenal.

If we keep on waiting for Mr. Zardari’s parliamentary committee to come up with some sort of recommendations then we should prepare ourselves for unchecked Predator attacks in the foreseeable future too. Wonder, if one day India is to attack Pakistan, how many days it will take for Zardari’s committees to give permission to the Pakistani military to defend the motherland?

Pakistani military brass should take advantage of ‘plausible deniability’ to save the Pakistanis from both the Predators and Mr. Zardari’s committees. Because life of each and every Pakistani is as precious and worth defending, as of any of American’s or as of any Pakistani minister’s.

- Asian Tribune -

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