Pakistan Receiving IL-78 Refueling aircraft
In December 2008, Defense News reported that 2 IL-78 “Midas” air refueling tankers were seen landing on Dec 2/08 at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, painted in Pakistani Air Force livery. Pakistan reportedly signed a contract with the Ukraine for 4 aircraft with Russian-designed UPAZ refueling pods, with the possibility of additional third-country equipment. Full operation is expected by 2010.
The IL-78 Midas is the aerial refueling variant of the IL-76 strategic transport; it is operated by Pakistan’s ally China, as well as its rival India. Standard IL-78s use hose-and-drogue refueling, however, which limits their usefulness to Pakistan. The PAF’s top-end F-16s possess USAF-standard dorsal refueling inlets, which require a refueling boom. The PAF’s MiG-19 derivative A-5 Fantan fighters have no aerial refueling capability at all, and neither do its F-7 Skybolts (Chinese MiG-21s). Refueling drogues are present on Pakistan’s old Mirage III/Vs, and on the Sino-Pakistani FC-1/ JF-17 Thunder lightweight fighters that may constitute the bulk of its future fleet. They will also be present on the Chengdu FC-20/J-10 fighters, which Pakistan is buying.
On Dec 20/09, the excellent Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported that the first PAF IL-78 aircraft had arrived, with the other 3 expected by mid-2010. This event follows the delivery of Pakistan’s first Erieye AWACS aircraft, and the 2 purchases combined will substantially change the capabilities of Pakistan’s air force.