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The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has formally announced it will commence development of a 5th-generation fighter, medium altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV and munitions under the banner of “Project Azm” (i.e. resolve or determination). In his speech for inaugurating the Kamra Aviation City initiative, the PAF Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman outlined the program objectives of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), the newly established Aviation Design Institute (AvDI) and Air University’s Aerospace and Aviation Campus.

“Our engineering and operational staff have indigenized few core capabilities which are truly high-tech. The 5th-generation fighter aircraft, MALE UAVs, are in the final stages of design, development of advanced weapons and other key projects”.

Air University Aerospace and Aviation Campus Kamra is an expansion campus of Air University Islamabad, which was founded in 2002. Aman stated that the campus will “provide the desired impetus for cutting-edge indigenization programs, strengthen the local industry and harness the demands of foreign aviation industry by reducing … imports and promoting joint research and production ventures.”

In its 2015-2016 yearbook, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) states that AvDI was formed “to lead design and development activity …with its working model emphasizing leveraging existing National Human Resource and facilities”. The MoDP adds that AvDI will manage the design of “state of the art next generation aerospace vehicles.”

Aman added that the Aviation City initiative will provide valuable economic opportunities for local industry entities, and in turn, support the growth and value of Pakistan’s aviation industry. Aman’s recent statements follow his earlier commitments to localizing the PAF’s supply channel, at least in terms of its 5th-generation fighter, by assigning a significant amount of the design, development and production work of the 5th-generation domestic.

According to quwa.org, PAC’s AvDI has been responsible for three marquee aviation programs under Project Azm: the 5th-generation fighter, a MALE UAV and munitions development. Aman stated that the design work of the MALE UAV is in its “final stages”, suggesting that the UAV is a relatively near-term factor. Pakistan did not act upon the availability of MALE UAVs in China and Turkey, such as the Wing Loong-series and Anka, respectively. This is despite the prior industry ties formed with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).

However, Pakistan is opting for an original design instead of an off-the-shelf acquisition. Pakistan’s suppliers have supply opportunities at several key stages, the airframe, propulsion, electronic subsystems and potentially – weapons. But the PAF’s emphasis on localization implies that many of these systems will eventually be sourced domestically, though that could leave the room for co-production partnerships (which appears to interest Pakistan).

Another program, already active, is advanced munitions development. The complete system was cleared for use in March.

The PAF requires munitions for current and future platforms, which provides ample opportunity for the industry, especially in the realm of air-to-air missiles (AAM) and guided air-to-ground munitions (AGM).