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Pakistan UAVs News & Discussions



New Recruit

Nov 1, 2005
4 March, 2009

Back in 1970, the American Army Gen. William Westmoreland is reported to have said: “On the battlefield of the future, enemy forces will be located, tracked and targeted almost instantaneously through the use of data links, computer-assisted intelligence and automated fire control. … I am confident the American people expect this country to take full advantage of its technology-to welcome and applaud the developments that will replace wherever possible the man with the machine.” It seems that this vision from the 1970s is being realized today. One manifestation of it is the development and deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles by many nations, including Pakistan.

Pakistan UAV

The growing reliance on armed drones (aka Predators) by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s FATA region to target militants has been making headlines with increasing casualties.

This technology of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones designed and manufactured in Pakistan has also been making news since the IDEAS (International Defense Exhibition and Seminar) 2008 event, a 5-day biennial arms show held November last year in Karachi, Pakistan.

Among the largest foreign pavilions at the exhibition, Turkey had 28 companies and United States had 22. Other major exhibitors came from China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Among other products, Pakistani companies showed off JF-17 fighter plane built by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in partnership with China’s Chengdu Aircraft, Al-Khalid main battle tank, and a variety of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) designed, developed and built in Pakistan.

While offering employment to thousands, and strengthening Pakistan’s defense, the growing indigenous sophistication of many of the private sector companies is also becoming an attractive investment opportunity.

Integrated Dynamics

One such Company is Integrated Dynamics, a privately held Pakistani company that drew attention at the IDEAS 2008 expo. It is a developer and manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles which is exported to Australia, Spain, South Korea and Libya and the United States. The UAV Company is an example of a new generation of private defense companies in Pakistan that have grown with the emerging needs of Pakistani military and export opportunities to both military and civilian sectors abroad.

Integrated Dynamics is a full-service UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) systems provider based in Karachi, Pakistan. The company has been in business since 1997 and designs and integrates UAV systems primarily for the Government of Pakistan, the Pakistan armed forces and export.

Integrated Dynamics

The company says they are committed to the use of the UAV system as a scientific and defensive tool that can be used to save lives and monitor potentially hostile environments for human personnel. The company also makes drones such as the turbojet-powered Tornado decoy, which can fly up to 200 kilometers, and emit false radar signals to “confuse enemy air defenses into thinking they are attacking aircraft,” according to Defense News of Pakistan.

In addition to supplying drones to the Pakistani military, the company exports its products to Australia, Spain, South Korea and Libya and the United States. The US Homeland Security Department uses ID’s Border Eagle surveillance drone for border patrol duties. Integrated Dynamics’ products cost only a fraction of the cost of comparable products made in the United States and Europe. According to the Karachi-based company, ID UAV prices start from about USD 20,000 while in comparison UAV products made in the West start from about USD 200,000. The ID models have operational ranges of 20 to 1,600 kilometers.

Integrated Dynamics had begun to develop the Firefly mini-rocket UAV in late 2004 in response to the Pakistani army’s operational requirements for a high-speed, short-range observation system that could be used in the high-altitude environments of northern Pakistan. A basic system of such sort costs around USD 3,000 and comprises four rockets, a launcher, a carry case, datalink and a PDA-based ground control station.

Emerging Sophistication from a Cottage Industry

Pakistan’s arms manufacturing sector has long been considered to be a cottage industry. The dusty little town of Darra Adam Khel,only a half-hour drive from Peshawar, reminds visitors of America’s Wild West. The craftsmen of this town are manufacturers and suppliers of small arms to the tribal residents of the nation’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas who carry weapons as part of their ancient culture. The skilled craftsmen of FATA make revolvers, automatic pistols, shotguns and AK-47 rifles. Until five years ago, the list also had items such as anti-personnel mines, sub-machine guns, small cannons and even rocket launchers. The Pakistani government has forced the tribesmen to stop making heavy assault weapons to try and prevent the Taliban and Al Qaeda from having access to such weapons.

Pakistan’s arms industry has come a long way from making small arms as a cottage industry in the last few decades. The US and Western arms embargoes imposed on Pakistan at critical moments in history have proved to be a blessing in disguise. In particular, the problems Pakistan faced in the aftermath of the Pressler Amendment in 1992 became an opportunity for the country to rely on indigenous development and production of defense equipment.

Pakistan’s Military Industrial Complex

The country now boasts a powerful industrial, technological and research-based developing and manufacturing sector for its armed forces and exports a wide variety of small and large weapons ranging from modern fighter jets, battle tanks, armored vehicles, frigates and submarines to unmanned aerial vehicles and high tech firearms and personal grenade launchers for urban combat. Some of these items were on display at IDEAS 2008.

Pakistan has become an increasingly important player in the world arms industry, a global industry and business which manufactures and sells weapons and military technology and equipment. Arms production companies, also referred to as Defense Contractors, produce arms mainly for the armed forces of nation states. Products include guns, ammunition, missiles, military aircraft, military vehicles, ships, electronic Systems, and more. The arms industry also conducts significant research and development. Pakistan’s major defense manufacturing companies are owned and operated by Pakistan’s military.

According to Business Monitor, Pakistan’s defense industry contains over 20 major public sector units (PSUs) and over 100 private-sector firms. The majority of major weapons systems production and assembly is undertaken by the state-owned PSUs, while the private-sector supplies parts, components, bladed weapons and field equipment.

Major PSUs include the Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF), Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) and the Pakistan Machine Tool Factory. Multinational presence in Pakistan is limited, although joint production or engineering support in the development of certain armaments has recently occurred with companies such as DCN International and the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group.

JF-17 Jointly developed by Pakistan and China

IDEAS 2000, Pakistan’s first major arms show, was organized after former President Musharraf assumed leadership of the country in the wake of the 1999 bloodless coup that toppled the Nawaz Sharif government. At the show, the former president emphasized the need for the growth of Pakistan’s defense industry and private sector involvement in R&D, manufacturing and marketing of arms. Held every two years since the year 2000, the show has become a runaway success. It has helped Pakistan and other friendly nations to show off their wares, find customers, share knowledge, build bilateral partnerships, encourage scientific innovation and learning among young people and made visitors and Pakistani citizens more aware of the role the defense industry plays in national defense and economy.

World Arms Market

It is estimated that yearly, over USD 1 trillion are spent on military expenditures worldwide (2% of World GDP). Part of this goes to the procurement of military hardware and services from the military industry. The combined arms sales of the top 100 largest arms producing companies amounted to an estimated USD 315 billion in 2006. In 2004 over USD 30 billion were spent in the international arms trade (excluding domestic arms sales). Many industrialized countries have a domestic arms industry to supply their own military forces. Some countries also have a substantial legal or illegal domestic trade in weapons for use by its citizens. The illegal trade in small arms is prevalent in many countries and regions affected by political instability.

Pakistan’s Arms Business

In a July 2008 interview with Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Major General Mohammad Farooq, Director General of the Defense Export Promotion Organization, claimed that Pakistan’s defense exports have tripled to around USD 300 million because of the quality of its ammunition, anti-tank guided missiles, rocket launchers and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. He said exports to South Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries had increased significantly. It has been reported that Sri Lanka has purchased cluster bombs, deep penetration bombs and rockets and UAVs from Pakistan.

General Farooq said optical instruments like night vision devices, laser range-finders and designators, laser threat sensors, artillery armor mortars and munitions, mine detectors, anti-tank rifles, missile boats, different types of tear gases, fuses of unarmed vehicles, security equipment and sporting and hunting guns were also being manufactured in Pakistan. “The fuses are being purchased by countries like Italy, France and Spain,” he said.

In recent times however, Pakistan has come under criticism by human rights groups for being a leading manufacturer and exporter of land-mines, cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions.

Pakistan’s UAV Industry

The three main branches of the Pakistani military are evaluating UAVs made in Pakistan and the rest of the world for purchase and deployment.

Pakistan has been eager to boost its capabilities for high-tech aerial warfare and restructure and reorient its military to respond to the new and emerging challenges of combating insurgents. A number of public and private sector companies have been engaged in research, development and manufacturing of unmanned aerial vehicles as a part of this initiative. The public sector companies include Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Air Weapons Complex and National Development Complex.

This growing interest by Pakistani military and also foreign companies and governments has helped spawn several private Pakistani UAV companies specializing in air-frames, launch and propulsion, flight control, tele-command and control systems, signal intelligence, training simulators, etc. In addition to Integrated Dynamics mentioned earlier, other private companies involved in UAV development and manufacturing include, East-West Infinity, Satuma and Global Industrial Defense Solutions.

Between the public and private sector UAVs developed in Pakistan, there is a long list of products. In addition to Integrated Dynamics described above, here are three more UAV companies in Pakistan:

East-West Infinity

One of the companies at the forefront of UAV development is East West Infinity (EWI). EWI’s latest products are the Heliquad micro tactical UAV and the Whisper Watch signals intelligence (SIGINT) package. The Heliquad was first displayed in prototype form at the IDEAS 2006 defense exhibition. Equipped with a tiny camera, it can relay pictures back to troops or Special Forces in an urban environment or in the field, giving them a tactical reconnaissance capability. Being exceptionally small and powered by four electric motors, Heliquad is highly stealthy and represents the cutting edge of EWI’s electronics miniaturization. SIGINT has become more important with ongoing anti-terrorism operations on the western front and in the tribal areas. Designed for militaries unable to afford high-end, dedicated SIGINT platforms, the company says its Whisper Watch platform is most effective when aerostat-mounted, as the platform is stationary and airborne for longer.


Satuma (Surveillance and Target Unmanned Aircraft), founded in 1989, is a small UAV specialist company based near Islamabad, Pakistan. Satuma products include Flamingo, Jasoos and Mukhbar UAVs. Its biggest customer is the Pakistani military.

Global Industrial Defense Solutions

GIDS, the largest of the private defense sector companies, has a UAV division, which produces a whole range of operational and training UAVs, the main customer of which is the Pakistani military. The UAVs developed by GIDS have been extensively flight tested by the military. GIDS ground control stations have an interactive and user friendly interface, where flight parameters and auto-pilot mission planning, and execution is done in addition to reception of high-end crisp quality video transmitted over an encrypted digital link.

Headed by a retired PAF Air Vice Marshall, GIDS has emerged from a combination of 7 Pakistani private defense companies that include AERO (Advanced Engineering Research Organization), IDS (Integrated Defense Systems), MSL (Maritime Systems Pvt Limited), ACES (Advanced Computing and Engineering Solutions), IICS (Institute of Industrial Control Systems), ATCOP (AI-Technique Corporation) and SETS (Scientific Engineering and Technology Solutions). Other than UAVs, its major products include anti-personnel, anti-armor, incendiary, anti-runway, electronic impact and time-based fuses, electronic warfare equipment, navigation systems, optical fiber and optical fiber cables. Anti-tank Wire Guided Missile System known as “Baktar Shiken” made by IICS, is a component of GIDS.


Pakistan’s growing defense industry is becoming high tech to keep up with the challenges of a changing world that requires advanced weapons and new strategies to maintain peace and stability in a hostile neighborhood. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s defense industry is contributing to a scientific, technological, industrial and economic development of the nation by training and employing thousands of citizens. The investments made in defense production are a good bargain for the companies, their investors and the taxpayers of Pakistan to help ensure the nation’s economic, political and national security against both internal and external threats.


Feb 22, 2008
I hope Pakistan Will Make a UCAV soon Just as we have made UAVs. World is changing and we have to keep pace with them in every Field of Life.


Oct 20, 2008
United Kingdom
excellent news

Insha'Allah agle 5 saalon main hamari army, air force aur navy ke inventories ke figures proud karne wale hon ge


Jan 24, 2008
Looking at the facility from outside, no one would guess what goes on within the 90,000-square-foot research facility of Integrated Dynamics (ID), a privately owned company in Karachi’s Korangi area. There are no signboards indicating that ID is in the business of developing drone technology for military and civilian use. Surprisingly, there isn’t even an army of security guards manning the complex as one would expect upon entering the gate. A lonesome gate keeper lets us in without a fuss.

Even more startling is the ease with which Raja Sabri Khan, ID's chief executive, states that ‘drone technology has existed in Pakistan for the last 20 years.’

Khan, who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics, is quick to clarify that his company has ‘never been asked to develop a drone which has an armed implication.’ Instead, ID develops advanced Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) systems capable of reconnaissance missions as well as target decoys for anti-aircraft missiles. His customers, he says, include the armed forces of the country as well as foreign buyers from the US, Australia, Spain, Italy and France.

Although he may not have been asked to develop an armed drone, Khan, who previously worked as a consultant for Pakistan’s aerospace agency Suparco, points out: ‘If we consider the fact that drone development has been taking place in Pakistan for the last 20 years, I think the technology for flying long-range autonomous missions has existed for at least 10-12 years.’

Given Khan's estimations about local drone development, it is unclear why Pakistan is asking the US to handover its armed drone technology, especially that of the infamous Predator. President Asif Ali Zardari recently told the British daily Independent that the US should give Pakistan the ‘weapons, drones and missiles that will allow us to take care of’ the militant threat in the tribal areas.'

‘If you ask anyone in Pakistan involved in the business of making unmanned UAVs whether something similar to the Predator drone aircraft can be made, the answer would be yes,' explains Khan. 'I won’t say we can make it overnight or by tomorrow. But I won’t say either that it is a matter of decades. I would say that, if given the task, we can make such aircrafts in a few years.' As a technologist, Khan is hesitant to speculate as to why the Pakistan government or armed forces are not investing in home-made technology. 'I think you need to ask the policy makers that.'

UAVs in Pakistan

Interestingly, there are several public sector companies involved in developing UAVs in Pakistan, including the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Air Weapons Complex (AWC) and National Development Complex (NDC).

The PAC's Uqaab drone is in use by the Pakistan Army, and, according to unconfirmed reports, is being upgraded with Chinese help to carry a weapons payload. Other PAC UAVs include the Bazz and Ababeel. AWC's Bravo+ UAV is in use of the Pakistan Airforce (PAF). The PAF recently acquired an unarmed Italian drone called the Falco UAV, which is reportedly being used for surveillance and battleground assessments in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In 2008, the Pakistan Navy also reportedly completed trials of UAVs - the Austrian Schiebel Camcopter S-100 and Swedish Cybaero - from a Pakistani frigate in the Arabian Sea.

Private sector companies are also involved in the design and development of UAVs. Apart from ID in Karachi, East-West Infinity (EWI), Satuma and Global Industrial Defense Solutions (GIDS) are in the drone-making business.

The EWI's Heliquad UAV is considered a stealth design because of its small size and Whisper Watch signals intelligence package, which is capable of picking up radio and other communication signals. ID's Nishan Mk1 and TJ1000, Vision MK1 & MK2, Tornado, Border Eagle, Hornet, Hawk and Vector are also popular models employed by the armed forces for reconnaissance missions and target practice (each model varies in range and endurance). Satuma's UAVs, with similar functionalities, are called Flamingo, Jasoos and Mukhbar. For its part, the GIDS develops the Huma-1 UAV and its own version of the Uqaab.

Even though almost all UAVs in the country have been built for military applications - reconnaissance, simulations, decoy systems, remote sensing - none of them are reported to be capable of firing arms. Moreover, none of the above-mentioned facilities are involved in large-scale, mass production of UAVs.
Policy on drones

It is still not clear what Pakistan’s policy regarding unmanned drones is. On the one hand, Pakistan has ‘condemn[ed] in the strongest terms’ any US drone attack. On the other hand, reports have emerged that the US has the tacit approval of the current government.

Previously, former president Pervez Musharraf had reportedly authorized Washingtonto launch Predator drones from secret bases near Islamabad and Jacobabad. Google Earth imagesof an airbase in Balochistan hosting Predators had also emerged at a time when Pakistan was adamantly claiming that all drones were flying in from Afghanistan. More recently, the Pakistan Army ‘practiced’ shooting down drones, but even then, foreign aircrafts continued to rain in their missiles.

ID's Khan explains that shooting down drones to prevent attacks is a viable option. ‘From a technical standpoint, all it takes is a simple air-to-air or surface-to-air missile to bring the drone down. Almost all of these aircrafts have a very low radar signature. But they’re not undetectable. They can be detected,' he says. 'The question really is whether one wants to bring one down or not.'

Drones vs. casualties

According to news reports, US drone attacks have killed around 701 people in Pakistan since 2006, including 14 alleged Al Qaeda leaders. Although armed UAVs or drones provide safety to their operators since they cannot be harmed if the aircrafts are shot down during combat operations, they come at the cost of scores of civilian casualties, who bear the brunt of aerial raids. Therefore, it is debatable whether the armed drones, even if built and controlled by Pakistan, would actually make a difference in terms of changing the sentiment of the people against their devastating impact.


‘The question really is whether one wants to bring one down or not.’

The way forward

Apart from their use in a military context, there is a need to deploy UAVs for the benefit of Pakistani communities. UAVs abroad are being used for a variety of civilian services, including search and rescue operations, environmental analysis, assisting local law enforcers, scientific research and even transport. Situational awareness about a potentially hazardous or calamity-hit areas, for example, in the aftermath of an earthquake, could also be gained through the use of such systems.

The responsibility of implementing this vision rests not only with the companies that develop UAVs, but also with government bodies that should utilise drones to improve their image and efficiency. After all, drones are not exclusively killing machines.

Drone terminology

Model aircraft: Typically a remote-controlled unmanned plane that flies within the visual range of an operator.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle: A remote-controlled unmanned plane that can fly beyond the visual range of an operator. It is usually fitted with remote sensors and/or cameras.

Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle: An advanced form of unmanned aerial vehicles, it may have a range of hundreds of kilometres and an endurance of months. Moreover, the mission can be pre-programmed in such systems and can be completed with or without the assistance of an operator. Some advanced versions also use artificial intelligence.

Drone: In Pakistan, drones are usually associated with advanced unmanned autonomous vehicles that are fitted with lethal firepower (for example, the American Predator and Reaper drones). Target drones do not have combat capability and are used as decoys to simulate fighter aircrafts and test anti-aircraft batteries.

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Drones: Made in Pakistan


Jan 24, 2008
Flying high in Korangi 1/12 Dawn.com visits the facilities of Integrated Dynamics, located in Karachi’s Korangi district. The private company develops aerospace and robotic systems, including unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs), which are currently in use by the Pakistan army for reconnaissance, simulations and target practice.


Raja Sabri Khan, chief executive of Integrated Dynamics, is seen here at his UAV research and development centre in Korangi, Karachi.


The Tornado is a target and decoy UAV with a range of over 200 kilometres. It can reach speeds of up to 300 knots and can emit false radar signals to confuse enemy air defences.


According to Khan, the core team at his company comprises only 14 people.


An UAV in the earliest stages of development.


The space in which UAV prototypes are designed and developed.

DAWN.COM | Media Gallery | Flying high in Korangi


Jan 24, 2008

The Nishan MK-II is seen here against the backdrop of Shadow and Explorer UAVs. The Nishan has a wingspan of over 9 feet and is considered a high-speed aerial target or decoy. Its range is limited to 35 kilometres.


The Border Eagle is a surveillance UAV that comes equipped with both a still and video camera along with a chemical monitoring module. The US Homeland Security department is reportedly using this drone to patrol its borders.


The explorer is one of the two advanced civilian UAV systems offered by Integrated Dynamics. It has a 20-kilometre range and is equipped with sensors suited for scientific research programmes.


The Shadow is also a surveillance UAV that has a speed of over 200 kilometres per hour and can operate within a 200-kilometre range.


The Rover is a civilian UAV typically used for electronic news gathering and rapid information relay.



Mar 9, 2009
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Khan. The PA is facing immense difficulty in the troubled and difficult regions. This can easily be reduced if the PA had access to such drones. There is a lack of political will in the political spectrum. The PA desperately requires reliable UCAVs for intel gathering and strike missions. We have a matured UAV industry which is able to deliver if political backing and appropriate funds are provided. We already know that the Americans won't provide the requested drones. Pakistani companies could team up with Chinese companies and accelerate the project as well as provide the goodies to the PA. The Uqaab purportedly being upgraded with weapons payload is excellent news. The use of UCAVs by the PA in the border regions should be top priority! It will provide relief to the ground troops and also minimize collateral damage.
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Mar 4, 2008
United Kingdom
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Khan. The PA is facing immense difficulty in the troubled and difficult regions. This can easily be reduced if the PA had access to such drones. There is a lack of political will in the political spectrum. The PA desperately requires reliable UCAVs for intel gathering and strike missions. We have a matured UAV industry which is able to deliver if political backing and appropriate funds are provided. We already know that the Americans won't provide the requested drones. Pakistani companies could team up with Chinese companies and accelerate the project as well as provide the goodies to the PA. The Uqaab purportedly being upgraded with weapons payload is excellent news. The use of UCAVs by the PA in the border regions should be top priority! It will provide relief to the ground troops and also minimize collateral damage.

its a guess but wat if PAC is already workin on it and we dont know about it??


Apr 24, 2007
so far 2 army UAVs have been lost in the ops due to technical malfunction!- reported in the various news clips.


Jan 5, 2009
Made in Pakistan​

Although drone technology exists in Pakistan, there are no efforts underway to produce weaponised drones that could rival the US Predator.

By Shahzeb Shaikha

It would come as a surprise to most Pakistanis that the country has an indigenous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle [UAV] industry. In fact, there are three private entities – East West Infiniti [EWI], Integrated Dynamics [ID] and Surveillance and Target Unmanned Aircraft [Satuma] – involved in the manufacturing of UAVs in Pakistan. In addition, three government enterprises, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex [PAC], the Air Weapons Complex [AWC], and the National Development Complex [NDC] also produce UAVs.

The Pakistan government has repeatedly requested the US to send them drone technology, a request which, according to defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqa, has been persistently denied because “we always leak technology.” But what if Pakistan develops its own drones with a missile delivery system matching the American Predator?

At this point, the question of ‘what if’ doesn’t exist because Pakistan already possesses the capability to develop its own unmanned vehicles. But there is a big difference between producing unarmed UAVs, which Pakistan currently does, and the armed Predator drones which the US has been using in FATA.

Can Pakistan come up with a UAV carrying weapons?

Dr Hammad Bin Khaleeq, Satuma’s director in charge of mechanical design and manufacturing, Dr Haroon Javed Qureshi of EWI, and Raja Sabri Khan, CEO of Integrated Dynamics, all concur.

“It is possible,” Khaleeq tells Newsline. “It is not something beyond our capability. We only need to have support – financial support as well as time. These things don’t develop overnight.” He maintains that there have been huge amounts of investment from the government for the purpose of developing drones but state entities have failed to deliver the desired product. “Acquiring and integrating a weapon in drones is advanced and difficult. But it’s not out of our reach. If the government wants, the efforts can be put in.”

Qureshi confidently explains that if the drone project is headed solely by private enterprises, “I can assure you that my company, or, for that matter, Raja Sabri Khan’s Integrated Dynamics, or Satuma, can perhaps do it in three years. One has to keep in mind that all three companies have been in this particular business for 15 years and are well aware of the ground realities.”

However, Khan is sceptical about the three-year estimate. “I worked for Suparco from 1987 to 1997, before I started my own company. Right now, the only constraint in Pakistan developing a predator type drone is money,” Khan says. He also maintains that state enterprises lack will and passion, and agrees with Qureshi’s stance on the government backing commercial firms to develop such technology. Khan reveals that a minimum investment of $50 million would be required to initiate a drone project along the lines of the Predator, but it could take as long as eight years.

According to the three private enterprises the drone technology in Pakistan is nowhere near the American Predator. The Predator carries a Hellfire missile that Pakistan does not have. Instead, Pakistan has the Baktarshikan and the Tow anti-tank missile, which can strike as far as 3,000 yards. The maximum payload weight of the Tow missile is 100lb. The main difference between the Predator and Pakistani-manufactured drones is the wing load capability and the engine size. The Predator can carry far more payload weight [450lb] and can fly more than 20 hours, covering a distance of 3,700km. The missile capability depends on how much load the wing can carry. The current technology in Pakistan limits the companies in terms of how much load per square foot they can put on the wing.

“There is a thought process along these lines in Pakistan, but, as far as real work is concerned, nothing is being done. Several of the UAV programmes that are now being carried out will have the capability of carrying at least 150lb.” Khan goes on to emphasise that his company is not providing Americans with the drones being used in FATA, a common misconception.

The Predator (MQ-1) and Reaper (MQ-9) cost approximately $4.5 and $10.5 million, respectively. Qureshi claims: “We can develop a drone in half a million or a million dollars, not more. And it would be cheaper for us to operate the drone any day.”

The operating cost for a drone is broken down into three elements: the actual weapon, the human costs and the engineering resources – which keep the aircraft flying and operational, both in the field and in the workshops – including their refurbishment and upgrading, and the people who are actually flying in the field. Pakistan’s human resources costs are at least 10 times cheaper than those in the US.

Qureshi expresses his discontent with the military establishment and its enterprises heading the drone programme, saying that there is no drive and vision in these organisations. According to him, all state programmes involving drone manufacturing are headed by brigadiers. “They are all marking their time. Their motive is to do something that will result in their promotions. Soldiers just want another badge on their shoulders.” A regular speaker at military platforms, he doesn’t mince his words. “You [military personnel] want development in military technology, so remember that there is no on-and-off button in this process,” he tells them to their faces. “This project should have continuity in research and development. The best you can do is to leave us alone. Let us develop it ourselves. Let us operate like a commercial entity.”

The Predator, the Reaper and all related programmes in the world were privately driven innovations, claims Qureshi. “None of them are state-established. They [the companies] come up with a vision and present it to the state which says, ‘Very well, how much would it cost to develop this product?’ Whatever amount it is, the state gets that amount sanctioned and they tell the company to put up matching funds. Suppose the total developing cost is $50 million, we [the company] put up 15% and they [the government] give us 85%. These are the yardsticks one should consider. This project would be evaluated after two to three years. If you’re not meeting the yardsticks, the state pulls the plug on you [the business].”

One could sense the anger in him. He mentions a recent decision by the Pakistani military establishment that he considers a blunder. In 2006, the army bought 28 UAVs from EMT, a German manufacturer, at a cost of $24 million, and the Pak Air Force bought 24 Italian Galalio Falco’s – medium-altitude endurance tactical UAVs. Qureshi says that the same kind of UAVs could have been delivered for $4 million from within Pakistan.

The civilian government might still be unaware of Pakistan’s home-grown drone manufacturing capability and industry. Both Qureshi and Khaleeq claim that they have not been approached by the civilian leadership to develop drones with missile-carrying capability.

“I don’t know if they are aware of our existence, and we don’t care if they do or if they don’t. We are a private company and we haven’t approached the political leadership. We don’t interact with politicians,” Khaleeq says.

When asked if President Zardari is aware of this, Qureshi argues that he doesn’t know if the president knows or not. “Zardari himself is standing on one foot. But if the leadership commits to this project, we can have a drone carrying weapons, made and operated in Pakistan.” Khan tells me that due to a lack of financial capital, his company is not moving in the direction of developing anything of the sort. “We need the backing of the government,” he urges.

Currently, Pakistani-manufactured drones are closer to the American Shadow drone programme. Shadow 200 is being used by the US Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq. Shadow has small experimental delivery systems and relatively less endurance and range. Pakistani manufacturers have not copied UAV designs; they have been successful in developing their own UAV models. In addition, there is no doubt that Pakistan can develop its own UAVs because commercial companies have a proven track record.

Drones were first produced in 1983 by the Malir Air Defence School in Karachi. Since then, others have gotten into the act. EWI, established in 1983, was approached by Suparco in 1993 to develop a UAV. Qureshi, EWI’s founder and managing director, informs Newsline that the Pakistani establishment had approached him with a half-hearted effort to develop such a technology.

“The chairman of Suparco told us in 1993 to develop a UAV in three months. We declined, as it was out of the question to develop something of the sort in such a short amount of time. Then they came back in 1995 and gave us a one-year period,” Qureshi recalls. “A while later, they ran out of money.”

Coming from a military family, Qureshi has a fair idea of the ins and outs of the military. His father was a brigadier in the Pakistan Army. Qureshi, on the other hand, was in pursuit of bridging the gap between the East and the West in terms of technological advancement and exchange of information between people from both regions of the world. This obsession was what initially pushed him to found East West Bridge, now known as East West Infiniti.

According to Qureshi, the US military itself is not yet trained to operate UAVs. The person who operates the Predator [being used in Afghanistan and bordering Pakistan] is the contractor who supplies it. The functions of taking off, landing and flying the drone are carried out by the engineering element. Only the weaponry is handled by people in uniform. Essentially, the company that manufactures the drones has the joystick, and the person in uniform presses a button to release the missile to strike the target.

EWI initiated its serious UAV business model in 1995. Qureshi outlines their objective, to develop an unmanned aircraft covering a distance of 100km at 150 km/h, with an endurance time of four to five hours. For a UAV to be successful, he explains, one needs to fly it as slowly as possible, to get good imagery from the sky.

“We collaborated with the newly-founded company Satuma in 1995, and formed Satuma Infiniti Technology,” says Qureshi. “We developed two UAV models and we had a fairly decent device. Also, every senior military officer was aware of our products.”

The ferry range of EWI’s UAV was around 400km. “We gave our last demo in 1999 in Islamabad, two months before the military coup took place,” he says.

In 2001, EWI changed course and abandoned developing drones because it was too costly. According to Qureshi, it was costing his company around Rs 1.5 million a month. Key costs were the senior employees – PhDs and autopilot experts. Currently, EWI develops micro-drones and unmanned airships. Hardly two feet in size and electric-powered, the micro drone is like a bird-size spy plane. The unmanned airships fly at a ceiling of 3,000 feet with an autopilot mechanism, and can carry a payload of 50kg. The sole buyer of this spy plane is Pakistan’s military.

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