Taking Stock

For the last couple of months, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan was on the move. From visiting bases in breathtaking North to scrutinizing formations in the enchanting South, he had a hectic schedule. His purpose was obvious, his intentions clear to all. He had arrived to acquire first-hand knowledge of the men, equipment, and bases that he had the privilege to command. To meet, greet and motivate the men in blue who are tirelessly defending aerial frontiers of the motherland without a blink of an eye. He knows, every single one of these men is a hero in his own right and that is what he communicated to them during these visits. Another purpose of these visits was discreet yet equally compelling. To satiate his undying desire of flying…..his everlasting wish to be in the cockpit….fly with the boys… measure the pulse….and above all ‘Take Stock’… Sizzling July saw the Air Chief witnessing an operational exercise at the far-flung PAF Base at Skardu. The base had officially been named as ‘PAF Base Qadri’ after Air Commodore Abdul Hameed Qadri (Ex Base Commander Minhas) who attained shahadat in an operational training mission. The base is a well-organized haven, surrounded by towering peaks which are generally shrouded in crawling clouds. The Air Chief saw the ‘Pride of Pakistan’ JF-17 Thunder take-off and land from the highest altitude runway of Pakistan. He also observed various operational activities at the base including rapid deployment of fighter aircraft and combat support elements. He was also briefed on the ongoing infrastructure development works at the base. The Air Chief appreciated the operational preparedness of the base personnel and expressed his satisfaction over the pace of developmental works. During the visit, he had the opportunity to meet the combat crew and talked to them about the current situation in the region. Addressing the base personnel, the Air Chief stated that PAF was fully cognizant of the geostrategic developments in the region. He said that the aggressive military procurements by the enemy were not going unnoticed and necessary measures were in place to ensure the balance of military power in the conventional domain as well. The Air Chief assured the nation that PAF alongside its sister services was ever ready to give a befitting response to any misadventure by the adversary. Expressing concern over the Indian state terrorism and atrocities of its armed forces in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K), the Air Chief stated that the Pakistani nation unequivocally supports the freedom struggle of Kashmiris and reiterated the need for expeditious resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with the United Nations’ resolutions.

Fast forward a month, Air Chief’s next stop
was PAF Base Minhas. On arrival, he was received by Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Northern Air Command and Base Commander, PAF Base Minhas. The day holds importance in PAF’s history. Carrying forward the proud legacy of leading from the front, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan would personally take the newly inducted dual seat JF-17 Thunder for a ride. The purpose was to gain firsthand experience of this state-of-the-art aircraft, truly known as the ‘Pride of the Nation’. Being an adroit F-16 pilot himself, the Air Chief felt right at home in the new aircraft, assessing its operational capabilities while thoroughly gratifying his perpetual desire for flying. Once on the ground, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan met the air and ground crew. He lauded the level of drive and professionalism of the personnel involved in the venture. While talking to the combat crew, the Air Chief said that the induction of the dual seat version and Block-3 variant of JF-17 Thunder would help in maintaining the cutting edge of the PAF. He also stated that PAF personnel are the proud custodians of the legacy of valiant air warriors of Pakistan, which was manifested during Operation Swift Retort, last year. He further said that PAF would never be intimidated by the stockpiling of weapons by the enemy. He added that PAF, in synergy with sister services, was ever ready to counter any threat to the sovereignty of our sacred motherland. Next on his schedule was a visit to the Home of PAF’s Special Services Wing- Kalarkahar. Set in the rugged terrain of Kalarkahar, the base is not for the weak of spirit. Only the best of the best are able to make the cut. Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, being a man of action himself, fully understands and appreciates the value of these professional men. During the visit, the Air Chief witnessed the mock drills of counterterrorism and close-combat operations. Inverted men grappled down burning buildings and conducted air-tight hostage rescue operations while the Air Chief observed approvingly. At Minhas, the Air Chief had been excited for soaring in the cockpit of a JF-17. In Kalarkahar, he was eager to test the lethal arsenal of weapons in the likes of  FN P90s and FN F2000s that the SSW has in its inventory. After he had observed commandoes at the firing range, he could no longer hold himself being left out of the action. It was a sight to watch, as the Air Chief fired and handled one weapon after the other. The commandoes learned a thing or two from their leader as well. The Air Chief’s next destination was the Airpower Centre of Excellence (ACE) in PAF Base Mushaf, Sargodha. Rightly named as ACE, the institution is one of its kind facility and has acclaimed a high reputation in the region in a short span. The core purpose of the facility is to link operations, research, and doctrine to orchestrate air campaigns with air combat tactics. This institute is imparting quality training to future PAF commanders to undertake complex and demanding upcoming challenges and counter-terrorism operations. The purpose of the Air Chief’s visit was to attend the graduation ceremony of No 53 Combat Commanders’ Course, being the Chief Guest on the occasion. While addressing the occasion, the Air Chief said, “Combat training in PAF can be maintained at the highest pedestal of realism and responsiveness, only if we are cognizant of the contemporary challenges and ready with evolved tactics and strategies.” He further said, “Along with tactics and professional skills, selfless dedication combined with a high sense of discipline and comradeship is the key to the effective and safe accomplishment of PAF’s mission.”

In the following awards ceremony, the graduates were privileged to receive certificates and trophies from the Air Chief. Sqn Ldr Muhammad Shafaat received the prestigious Chief of Air Staff Trophy for overall performance amongst combat pilots. Air Defence Trophy for overall best performance amongst combat controllers was awarded to Sqn Ldr Julius Joseph. Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan’s work, however, was not done. The next venture that required his presence was the inauguration of PAF’s ‘Centre of Artificial Intelligence & Computing’ (CENTAIC) at Islamabad. Being the Chief Guest on the occasion, he unveiled the plaque, formally inaugurating the newly-formed facility. Addressing the occasion, he said that the establishment of CENTAIC was indeed a landmark initiative in the evolutionary journey of PAF. The Centre will lead to Artificial Intelligence Research & Development in both civil and military spheres. He said that technology had altered the characteristics of warfare in the 21st century and the vision of establishing the center was to harness the potential of artificial intelligence and its integration in PAF’s operational domain. The Air Chief then spent some time catching up with former Air Chiefs’ principal staff officers and other PAF officers, who were attending the ceremony. This was the busy yet spirited itinerary of Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan for the last couple of months. A hands-on approach to the lives and working of his men not only gives him a real-time grasp of realities but his visits also boosted the morale of his followers. His earnest desire to testing aircraft, equipment and meeting the men, very conveniently ensures that he is perpetually aware of the workings of the force under his command. And that is what the legacy of PAF leadership demands, always leading from the front…

Written by
Air Cdre (R) Muhammad Ali
Editor in Chief