Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Exploring the Squadrons of Pakistan Air Force


As Pakistan stands steadfast in its commitment to national security, a network of sentinel air bases forms an integral part of the nation’s defense strategy. These bases, scattered strategically across the country, serve as the rock layer of the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) operational capabilities. In this article, I delve into the intricacies of these sky fortresses, shedding light on their strategic importance, their role in regional geopolitics, and their contribution to maintaining peace and stability.

Building Real Men: PAF Academy Asghar Khan

Nestled amidst the serene landscape of Risalpur, the PAF Academy Asghar Khan is where young individuals are transformed into the pillars of Pakistan’s air defense. Aspiring cadets undergo rigorous training, both mentally and physically, to emerge as the guardians of the skies. The academy’s legacy, dating back decades, stands as a testament to its role in cultivating leadership, discipline, and unwavering commitment.

Primary Flying Training PAC MFI-17 Super Mushshak
Basic Flying Training  Cessna T37B/C Tweet
Advanced Flying Training Karakoram K-8P
PAF Formation Aerobatics Team – Sherdils Karakoram K-8P


Geopolitical Significance

Situated along the country’s international borders, PAF Air Bases hold a strategic advantage in the complex arena of geopolitics. These bases are not merely static installations; they are dynamic nodes that have the potential to alter the course of regional security dynamics. The placement of air bases at key locations influences the geopolitical calculus, allowing Pakistan to assert its interests and respond effectively to emerging challenges. Furthermore, these bases serve as tangible symbols of Pakistan’s commitment to its allies and international obligations, thereby shaping foreign policy and alliances.

  1. Peshawar Air Base: Guarding the northwest, this base holds a pivotal role in maintaining border security and rapid response capability. Assigned to Northern Air Command (NAC).
No. 17 AS “Tigers” F-7PG
No. 26 MR “Black Spiders” PAC/CAC JF-17A/B Thunder Block I/II
No. 81 CS “Kangaroos” SA-319B Alouette III


  1. Mushaf Air Base: Situated near the eastern border, this base ensures vigilance and readiness against potential threats. Assigned to Central Air Command (CAC).
No. 9 MR “Griffins” F-16 A/B MLU Block 15
No. 24 EW “Blinders” Dassault Falcon DA-20F
No. 29 MR “Aggressors” (CCS) F-16 A/B MLU Block 15
Skybolts (CCS) Mirage IIIEA ROSE-I
Fierce Dragons (CCS) PAC/CAC JF-17A Thunder Block I
No. 82 CS “Stallions” Augusta Westland AW-139


  • Qadri Air Base (Skardu): Nestled in Skardu’s captivating landscapes, PAF Base Qadri signifies the Pakistan Air Force’s resolute dedication to national security. Initially a Forward Operating Base (FOB), it attained the status of a Main Operating Base (MOB) in 2021, reflecting its upgraded capabilities and strategic importance. Perched at a high altitude, the base’s rotational detachment of units ensures constant vigilance, fortifying the defense of Pakistan’s northern frontiers amidst challenging terrains.

Defense Preparedness

In times of uncertainty, air bases emerge as strongholds of defense preparedness. They form the frontline of Pakistan’s deterrence strategy by ensuring air superiority and readiness to repel any aggression. The aircraft stationed at these bases stand as sentinels, ready to take flight at a moment’s notice. Not only do air bases enable the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to deter potential adversaries, but they also serve as vital support hubs for ground forces during conflicts, enhancing the overall effectiveness of military operations.

  1. Masroor Air Base (Karachi): Safeguarding the southern flank, this base contributes significantly to maritime security as well. Assigned to Southern Air Command (SAC).


No. 2 MR “Minhasians” PAC/CAC JF-17A Thunder Block I
No. 4 AEW&C “Karakoram Eagle” ZDK-03 AEW&C
No. 7 TA “Bandits” Mirage-IIIEA ROSE-I
No. 22 OCU “Ghazis” Mirage IIIDP/EL/BE/BL
No. 84 CS “Dolphins” Augusta Westland AW-139

*No. 8 TA Squadron “Haiders” was also stationed at PAF Masroor with Mirage VPA/2/3s specially dedicated to Maritime Support Role to the Pakistan Navy until late 2022. In December 2022, the PAF number plated 8 Sqn and now the squadron is to be equipped with latest state of the art aircraft like PAC/CAC JF-17A Thunder Block III or Chengdu J-10CE. Nonetheless, the conclusion is not unveiled yet!


  1. Rafiqui Air Base (Shorkot): Positioned in the heart of Punjab, it plays a crucial role in maintaining operational readiness. Assigned to Central Air Command (CAC).
No. 14 MR “Tail Choppers” PAC/CAC JF-17A Thunder
No. 25 TA “ Night Strike Eagle” Mirage IIIDP

Mirage VEF/DD

No. 27 TA “ Zarrars” Mirage IIIDP


No. 50 TA “Saf Shikan” Mirage IIIDA/EA
Mirage VDD/RP/PA
No. 83 SAR “Kites” SA-319B Alouette III


  1. Minhas Air Base (Kamra): A technological hub, this base supports not only defense but also indigenous aircraft production. Assigned to Northern Air Command (NAC).


No. 3 AEW&C “Angels” Saab 2000/-AEW
No. 15 MR “Cobras” Chengdu J-10CE
No. 16 MR “Black Panthers” PAC/CAC JF-17A/B Thunder (Block I/II/III)
No. 87 SAR “Dragonflies” SA-319B Alouette III
Augusta Westland AW-139
No. 1 UAV Flight NESCOM Burraq
GIDS Shahpar/-2
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra (PAC Kamra) JF-17 Thunder manufacture
MFI-395 manufacture
Mirage overhaul
F-7 overhaul


  • Bholari Air Base (Jamshoro): Strategically located near the eastern border and meticulously equipped, this airbase stands as a sentinel, contributing to the Pakistan Air Force’s preparedness and response capabilities in an attack. Assigned to Southern Air Command (SAC).
No. 18 OCU “Sharp Shooters” PAC/CAC JF-17B Thunder Block II
No. 19 OCU “Sherdils” F-16 A/B Block 15 ADF
No. 53 AEW&C “Hawks” Saab 2000AEW


Top of Form



Projection of Power

The ability to project power across borders is a hallmark of a strong and capable military. PAF Air Bases are instrumental in extending the nation’s power projection capabilities. The agility to deploy air assets rapidly to distant areas grants Pakistan the means to respond swiftly to regional crises and contribute to peacekeeping efforts. These bases have, time and again, played a pivotal role in critical moments, shaping the outcome of regional conflicts and showcasing Pakistan’s commitment to stability.

  1. Shahbaz Air Base (Jacobabad): Positioned to enhance the reach of the PAF, it plays a pivotal role in extending power projection capabilities. Assigned to Southern Air Command (SAC).
No. 5 MR “Falcons” F-16 C/D Block 52
No. 11 MR “Arrows” F-16 A/B Block 15
No. 88 CS “Rams” Augusta Westland AW-139


  1. Samungli Air Base (Quetta): Guarding the southwestern frontier, it contributes to rapid response and peacekeeping operations. Assigned to Southern Air Command (SAC).
No. 23 AS “Talons” F-7PG
No. 18 MR “Phoenix” PAC/CAC JF-17A Thunder Block I/II
No. 85 CS “Rams” SA-319B Alouette III


Airborne Surveillance and Reconnaissance

Behind the scenes, these sky fortresses host a range of aircraft tasked with airborne surveillance and reconnaissance missions. These missions provide real-time intelligence gathering, a vital component of national security. By monitoring borders, tracking movements, and gathering vital information, air bases contribute immensely to the nation’s situational awareness. Their contribution to border surveillance enhances Pakistan’s ability to protect its territorial integrity.

  1. M.M. Alam Air Base (Mianwali): Named after a national hero, this base undertakes vital reconnaissance missions, bolstering national security. Assigned to Northern Air Command (NAC).


No. 1 FCU “Rahbers” Karakoram K-8P
No. 20 OCU “Sharp Shooters” F-7PG
No. 86 SAR “Ababeels” SA-319B Alouette III


  1. Masroor Air Base (Karachi): Safeguarding the southern flank, this base contributes significantly to maritime security as well. Assigned to Southern Air Command (SAC).

*Squadron list discussed above


  • Samungli Air Base (Quetta): Playing a key role in border surveillance, enhances situational awareness in the region.
    *Squadron list discussed above


Logistical Hub

Pakistan’s air bases are not just operational centers; they also drive technological advancements. Among them are:

  1. Faisal Air Base (Karachi): This base acts as a hub for technological innovation, fostering collaboration with academia and industry.
No. 21 ATS “Burraqs” Lockheed C-130E Hercules
Saab 2000


  1. Nur Khan Air Base (Rawalpindi): This prominent military airbase, named after Air Marshal Nur Khan, stands as a cornerstone of the Pakistan Air Force’s operational capabilities, encompassing advanced facilities and fostering excellence in military aviation.
No. 6 ATS “Antelopes” Lockheed C-130B/E Hercules
Lockheed L-100 Hercules
No. 10 MRTT “Bulls” Ilyushin Il-78MP Midas
No. 12 VIP “Globe Trotters” Airbus A319
King Air 350i
Cessna Citation Latitude
Bombardier Global 5000
Gulfstream G450
No. 41 VLC Piper PA34 Seneca
Piper PA-46
Harbin Y-12 II
No. 52 ATS “Markhors” CASA/IPTN CN-235M-220



In the complex landscape of national security, PAF Air Bases remain the unsung heroes, silently guarding the nation’s skies. Their strategic significance, modernization efforts, and commitment to peace solidify their role as the sentinels of sovereignty. As Pakistan navigates an ever-changing world, these bases stand as a testament to the nation’s dedication to security, stability, and progress.

Author: Muhammad Hamza Bin Yasir

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent Global Defense Insight’s editorial policy.

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