In the inaugural session of AirTech â€™17, a conference being held at Air University in Islamabad, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman stated that China is supporting Pakistanâ€™s efforts to develop a next-generation fighter, a satellite program and a manned space mission.
â€œPakistan is engaged with Chinese experts in manufacturing the next generation aircraftâ€, Aman told the audience, adding, â€œChina is also providing technical assistance for launching the satellite programme.â€
Under â€œProject Azmâ€ the PAF is seeking to develop its own 5th-generation fighter. Besides having a system to support its future requirements, Project Azm is envisaged to steer Pakistan towards greater autonomy in domestically sourcing big-ticket defence systems and expanding Pakistanâ€™s aviation industry.
Having formally launched Project Azm in July, ACM Aman provided additional details of the project, such as 60% of its workforce comprising of civilians and that â€œit will take five years to initiate the productionâ€ of the aircraft (Dawn News).
Under Project Azm, Pakistan Aeronautical Complexâ€™s (PAC) Aviation Design Institute (AvDI) was tasked to develop a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). ACM Aman outlined that the AvDI MALE UAV will also be produced in 18 months.
Reiterating upon his prior statements of building Pakistanâ€™s domestic industry base and reducing its need for foreign suppliers, ACM Aman reportedly told the audience at AirTech â€™17 that the PAF will source the bulk of its weapon systems from Pakistan by 2020.
In addition to Project Azm, the CAS revealed that China was also assisting Pakistan in space development.
Besides assisting Pakistan in satellite development â€“ e.g. the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS-1) earth-observation satellite due to launch in March 2018 â€“ ACM Aman announced that China will assist in sending Pakistani astronauts into space in the next two years.