The Royal Air Force’s Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, visited the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) last week. During his three-day trip from March 30 to April 1 he spent time with the PAF CAS, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman and was briefed on the PAF’s ongoing fight against terrorism, which is conducted under Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
On March 31 Hillier visited the newly named PAF Academy Asghar Khan (formerly Risalpur) where he was chief guest at a graduation ceremony for the 118th Combat Support Course and 39th Basic Learning Pilots Course. During his speech, the RAF CAS said: “the RAF made a valuable contribution towards the development of PAF especially in its early years – a contribution that was deeply appreciated.” He went on to add: “the relations between two countries and, of course the two air forces, will continue to strengthen even further.”
During a visit to Mushaf Air Base the following day, the RAF CAS reinforced his sentiment when he announced that the PAF’s 9 Multirole Squadron ‘Griffins’, which flies F-16A/Bs, would twin with the RAF’s No 9 ‘Bats’ Squadron currently flying Tornado GR4s. It is unclear what the twinning will mean, given the high level of operational activity that the two units are involved in. Both squadrons are participating in ongoing operations against terrorism – the PAF in the FATA region of Pakistan and the RAF over Syria and Iraq.
Air Chief Marshal Aman said: “No 9 Squadrons of both the air forces have a rich legacy and have been frontline squadrons since their inception. The twinning of these squadrons would help us in learn from each other and strengthen our cordial relations.”
While addressing the occasion ACM Hillier said: “The Pakistan Air Force is respected world over due to its sound professionalism and deeply respected in the [United Kingdom].” He added: “The twinning of these renowned squadrons will further develop their capabilities and lay a foundation to build on the legacy of our predecessors.”
Earlier in the day, both the air chiefs flew a mission in separate 9 Squadron F-16Bs. It was the first time that a foreign CAS had participated in a joint mission with a PAF CAS. Alan Warnes