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Pakistani fighters are crashing

Lack of funds is killing Pakistani pilots as over a dozen Pakistani air force planes have crashed in roughly the past 18 months. This raises concerns about the health of an aging fleet that officials are struggling to upgrade because of a lack of funds. For such a powerful country, this is worrying. Effectively a significant number of the air force’s combat aircraft are nearly 50 years old and have been called on in recent years to help the army fight a domestic Taliban insurgency. Pakistan has turned to the U.S. and China for help in modernizing its air force, but economic woes have strained the government’s budget, even for the country’s powerful military.

Even within the Pakistani air Force the question is asked as such a high number of crashes are worrying. At least 13 planes have crashed since May 2011, many because of technical problems. The most recent accident occurred on Nov. 22, when a Mirage fighter jet crashed on a routine night training mission in central Punjab province, killing the pilot. The air force said at the time that it was investigating the cause of the crash, but eyewitnesses said the plane caught fire before it fell out of the sky. Nearly half the planes that have crashed were decades-old Mirage fighters. They make up at least a quarter of the force’s fleet of about 400 combat aircraft. Many were built nearly 50 years ago and acquired from foreign militaries that had already retired them. Even more worrying is that the Mirage is a great jet fighter and should not fail easily. The crashes raise questions not only about the age of the aircraft, but also flight maintenance practices. This point is further illustrated as other aircraft than the Mirage have crashed such as the Chengdu F-7 fighter jet bought from China and the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet. The most advanced fighter jet operated by the Pakistani air force is the F-16 Fighting Falcon, over 60 of which were purchased in various batches from the U.S. over the past three decades.

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