Pakistan's air force chief has outlined details of airpower's role in a three-year-old campaign waged against Taliban insurgents entrenched in the northwest tribal areas.
Speaking at the Dubai International Air Chiefs' Conference on 12 November, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman confirmed for the first time the role played by the air force's Lockheed Martin F-16s and specially-equipped Lockheed C-130s.
Until August 2008, Pakistan's air force had no experience in participating in counter-insurgency operations. The role had previously been dominated by the Pakistan army's artillery and helicopters. Believing the range and precision of the Pakistan air force's new F-16 fleet could yield better results, the air force embarked on a rapid learning curve.
The air force acquired Goodrich DB-110 targeting pods for F-16s and fitted C-130s with FLIR Systems Brite Star II and Star Safire III sensors, Suleman said.
The fighters in August 2008 launched a bombardment against a newly-discovered Taliban stronghold of about 200 fighters in the small village of Loe Sam, Suleman said.
The operation involved more than 650 strike sorties by the air force's F-16s, with more than 80% of the ordnance dropped as precision-guided weapons, he said.
The Pakistani air force later applied a number of lessons from the Loe Sam operation on a subsequent campaign against major Taliban positions in the Swat valley. Among the lessons was the need to monitor and strike mountain passes that could be used as escape routes for the displaced Taliban fighters, Suleman said.
In the first two years of counter-insurgency operations, the air force conducted more than 5,500 strike sorties, dropped 10,600 bombs and hit 4,600 targets, Suleman said.