Over the last few days I’ve come across a number of articles and news stories about Pakistan’s IT expertise being applied to benefit the domestic defence industry. Two items, in particular, caught my attention. The first one was about our very own Integrated Dynamics having sold locally designed and manufactured UAVs to the US Border Protection service. These UAVs, with their sophisticated navigation and monitoring software, also written in Pakistan, have been deployed to protect the borders of the United States. Even Wired magazine covered Pakistan’s growing UAV capabilities in an article titled, “Pakistan Expands Unmanned Air Force“.
The picture on the right shows one of the many Integrated Dynamics UAVs. And by the way ID isn’t the only game in town; local UAV and UCAV development companies are mushrooming. Satuma is another Islamabad based business that designs and builds these robotic aircraft in Pakistan.
The other story that caught my attention concerns the development of anti-UAV air defence systems. Much of the magic involved is in networking disparate radar systems – a job that rivals the hardest B2Bi deployments – writing detection software and applications that can interpret large amounts of raw data emanating from passive sensors deployed over large geographical areas. Sophisticated UAVs, especially those covered with Radar Absorbent Materials, provide a very small Radar Cross Section (RCS). Herein lies the challenge of detecting them. It’s not very different to an air defence that can detect and tackle stealth aircraft. In some ways, perhaps even more challenging, since the audio signatures from slow flying stealth UAVs are smaller than those of their manned counterparts. Despite all the complexity and all the technical challenges, the scientists working for the Armed Forces of Pakistan are confident that a combat ready system will be deployed inside of a year.
Additionally, many of the systems being showcased at IDEAS 2008, currently being held in Karachi, include sophisticated, locally developed software technologies; whether it is guidance software for Anza Surface-to-Air missiles, or various pieces of command and communication software for the Sino-Pak JF-17 fighter.
The net-net of all these developments is simply that software expertise is becoming incredibly important for Pakistan’s military, as well as its economy. The experience gained by engineers and scientists working in Pakistan is being wisely used to strengthen the defence of the country and to give our military exports an edge in an increasingly competitive global market.