Group Cap Tariq Mahmood August 14 bears high importance among the Muslims of the subcontinent. It was the day when Allah Almighty bestowed them with Pakistan in 1947. At that time the Muslims of this region had to face the biggest challenge that was to accumulate the meagre resources to run a newly born state on the globe. The Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was always keen to put the country on the track of development and specifically the defence of the country was on top of his agenda. Whenever Quaid-i-Azam got time he used to visit various units and establishments in the defence sector. Rather he always spared time out of his pressing engagements to visit the units of the defence forces of the country. During partition, the defence sector, like the other institutions of the country was not in shape and so was the situation of the air force - named as Royal Air Force of Pakistan - having total manpower of 2232. They belonged to various sections and services of the Royal Indian Air Force and had reached here after rendering countless sacrifices. This small number of men and officers are the real pioneers of today's strong and potent Pakistan Air Force. They not only paved way to achieve this goal but also provided a strong pedestal to the pilots to fly the most modern and high-tech aircraft in the third generation - F-16 (Fighting Falcon) and JF-17 (Thunder). They are the real heroes of the nation who produced the talented and brave lot of pilots like, Sarfraz Rafiqui, Younas, M M Alam, Allauddin, Rashid Minhas and Munir. When Pakistan was established it had only 122 aircraft's of different makes including 32 Dakotas, 35 Tempests, 29 Harwards, 16 Tiger Moth, three Aster 5s, and seven Aaster6s which were the flying assets of three Station Headquarters each at Risalpur, Chaklala and Kohat. In addition to these, there was one flight squadron and another for aircraft depot besides a Provost flight. Quaid-i-Azam who had closely monitored the performances of the air forces in World War-II while addressing the students of Aligarh University back in 1941 stated that "the future wars would be fought by the air forces" thus air power has assumed high importance. He soon after independence on April 13, 1948 visited the air force's training academy at Risalpur. Addressing the cadets he said: " A country without a strong air force is at the mercy of any aggressor. Pakistan must build up her air force as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient air force, second to none." This address of the Father of the Nation had given impetus to the determination and commitment of the country's air force and all the successive air chief's took this as a beacon of light for them to achieve progress and development. The leadership of the air force always firmly believed that despite restrained resources attainment of best training is the only way to bail out from the confronting challenges. March 23, 1956 bears vital importance when the Royal Pakistan Air Force was renamed as Pakistan Air Force subsequently giving confidence to the men in the force and the whole nation. Now it was a great challenge for the PAF to replace the ageing air fleet with modern aircrafts. Due to financial constraints PAF was left no choice but to get 100 US made F-86 Saber aircraft's in early 1957. On March 23, 1957 the PAF pilots showcased a spectacular air show of 64 imported aircraft. This show was not only a display of attainment of craftsmanship of the pilots but also of the engineers and technicians of the PAF who maintained the ever highest standard of expertise while presenting such a daring and undaunting air show. This year also is significant in the history of PAF with the fact that in July Air Marshal Noor Khan had taken over as the first C-in-C of PAF. He developed the PAF on modern lines which was displayed when during the 1965 war an air force of a much bigger adversary, in size and number, had completely crippled. PAF with a meagre number of aircraft had struck down 129 Indian aircraft's. At that time PAF had 148 aircraft while India owned 532 fighter jets. PAF's 22 bombers carried out 167 successful sorties while subsequently 60 Indian fighter jets could carry out 92 flights. The falcons of Pakistan Air Force not only forced the enemy to repent but also wrote new chapters in the history of world's air forces. Seeing the spectacular performances of the PAF fighters USA put sanctions on both the countries and supply of arms and ammunitions were put under ban. These sanctions did not cause any harm to India which had been relying mostly on the supplies from USSR but it was a punch for Pakistan. Later, due to the acumen and farsightedness of the leadership of the country these sanctions proved to be a "blessing in disguise" as new vistas were explored to get the supplies to maintain the level of country's defence. The role of Pakistan's evergreen and deep-rooted friend - China - is always forthcoming which allowed the purchase of aircraft's like F-6, A-5, and F-7P. This purchase deal not only helped the country to strengthen its defence sector but also gave an impetus to attain self-reliance. Forwarding leaps and bound in this sector Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra was established with the help of our great friend China. Initially, this was the place where PAF aircraft's had to be overhauled, however, as time passed PAC started getting orders for repair and overhaul from the friendly countries. This step not only helped the country save huge spending in foreign exchange but also helped in earning forex for the country. At later stages the PAC also started to undertake upgradation of its fighting fleet besides manufacturing of training aircraft's like Mashak, Super Mashak and Karakoram-8 indigenously. The surplus lot of locally manufactured trainers was also exported to the friendly countries, besides fulfilling the demand of PAF. Later, F-6 Rebuild Factory was also added to the PAC with the assignment to overhaul Chinese made aircraft's. In 1980, the changing scenario in the wake of Afghan war the US lifted sanctions providing Pakistan an opportunity to induct modern aircraft's like F-16 in the air force. Most of the lot of the Fighting Falcons was handed over to Pakistan while a few others were not supplied taking the excuse that Pakistan was developing a nuclear bomb, in 1990. However, the price for the supply of the fighter jets was already paid to the US. In 1988, Pakistan imported F-7P aircraft to augment its defence. In 1997, the PAF leadership decided to phase out the ageing fleet of F-6 aircraft and inducted F-7PG fighters in its inventory. On March 27, 2002 the newly inducted series tookover the 36 years old fleet of F-6. In 1992, when China invited Pakistan to take part in the manufacturing of a lightweight multi-role aircraft, the PAF was in need of such type of technology which could be inducted for reliance. After hectic and thorough deliberations, it decided to accept the offer thus in 1995 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between both the friends. This was earlier a project of Super-7 aircraft that was later renamed as JF-17 (Thunder). In 1999, a final plan was signed by both the stakeholders and formal manufacturing of the parts were initiated in 2002. After a few months in September 2002 the first design of the aircraft was manufactured. In a shortest record time of 22 months (April 2003) in the history of aviation industry the first prototype of the aircraft was rolled out. In September 2003 this prototype after undergoing hectic and laborious trials went into the air from the Changdu Airbase, China. Its fourth prototype loaded with weapons, on May 10, 2006 made a successful flight. This aircraft after successfully covering different stages went into production and on March 23, 2007 (Pakistan Day) made an inaugural flight in the country's horizons. The manufacturing of the indigenously developed aircraft which can carry all types of weapons and missiles had already been started at PAC and its first batch would be rolled out by the end of this year. JF-17 is a light combat aircraft developed to meet PAF's specific requirement. It would be replacing PAF's ageing fleet of A-5, F-7 and Mirages. The aircraft is capable of carrying a variety of conventional and precision guided bombs air to sea missiles and air to air missiles of both short and beyond visual range. The weapon capabilities of the aircraft would enable its employment in day and night multi-role tasks on land, sea and air. The aircraft would add to PAF's operational capabilities and help retain the much-needed balance in air power in the subcontinent. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, in his recent address had announced that the first squadron of JF-17 would be made in Peshawar soon. These achievements are undoubtedly of those skilful hands that made day and night efforts to help the country join the club of a few countries which manufacture fighter aircraft's. PAF has always been very lucky to get the able and ardent leadership who always worked for the air force to reach the highest echelons in the comity of nations. The present Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, is also highly determined to take the Pakistan Air Force to achieve further heights through his professionalism and expertise. The writer is Group Captain, PAF