Defense industrial base of Pakistan


PAKISTAN’s strategic location in South Asia offers many opportunities but also presents some grave security challenges. In addition to conventional threats, terrorism has emerged as a serious challenge impinging upon Pakistan’s national security. The existing internal and external security paradigms pose compound challenges for Pakistan Armed Forces. However, excellence is a useful byproduct of success in meeting tough challenges. The same holds true for Pakistan Armed Forces, as it has developed unique expertise, experience and capability in effectively meeting diverse security challenges.

Before Pakistan’s independence, there were 16 ordnance factories that existed in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. But after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, not a single one of them was situated in Muslim majority areas, which constituted the State of Pakistan. The need for a domestic defense base was dire, as the newly created state had virtually no capacity to meet serious threats of external aggression. The effort to develop this capability, therefore, started soon after the independence.

In four years time, the country developed its first unit for indigenous defense production. By the grace of Almighty Allah, today the defense industrial complex of Pakistan comprises over 20 major public sector units and around 145 private sector firms, engaged in the development and manufacture of defense related products. Pakistan’s defense industry has grown substantially, in terms of productivity, diversity, technology and quality. It is now manufacturing a large number of products from small arms and ammunition to complex weapon systems, including fighter aircrafts, naval ships and main battle tanks.

The indigenization of defense production has brought Pakistan huge dividends. Pakistan has been successful in manufacturing defense-related end-products for its armed forces at a fraction of the cost of comparable imports. By the end of the 20th century, Pakistan’s defense industry had started venturing into production of big-ticket items such as a new fighter plane known as JF-17 ‘Thunder”, the home-built main battle tank known as ‘Al Khalid’ and different categories of small to mid-sized vessels for maritime use.

Today, Pakistan is constructing ships, jet trainers, fighter aircraft, and main battle tanks, apart from many down streams items and products. The performance of JF17 fighter aircraft during recently concluded Gulf Shield-1 exercise in KSA, was a matter of pride for Pakistan and the Muslim world as this was the only major weapon system manufactured in a Muslim country. Al Khalid main battle tank, equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and fire power is an affordable platform which is designed to meet the operational needs of every army. Pakistan has also gained proficiency in design and manufacturing of small to medium size naval combat platforms, along with weapon system designed to engage sea borne and land targets with precision from long range. In the coming years, the drive towards indigenization is likely to witness more joint collaborations, including the manufacturing of submarines at Pakistani facilities.

The push towards increased self-sufficiency and indigenization was created by Pakistan’s experience with international arms suppliers, who were keen to exact huge political and financial advantages to meet Pakistan’s pressing security needs. It was realized, more than ever before, that any country wishing to exercise its sovereign and legitimate right to defend itself against external security threats, must build its own capacity to do so. The realization to achieve this strategic autonomy brought focus on diversification, modern technology and “thinking big”.

To achieve these objectives, Pakistan’s approach changed from defense imports to partnerships and investment in local production. With investment, partnership and dedication, Pakistan achieved these objectives. In addition, with experience of decades of indigenous production, Pakistan’s defense industry today competes at the international level, also in terms of quality production and precision manufacturing.

With Pakistan’s own experience in defense production, and as an abiding friend of Saudi Arabia, it sees huge advantages for Saudi Arabia, as it pursues the goal of “indigenization in defense production” as set out in Saudi Vision 2030. With close defense ties between the two countries for decades, and with shared ideals, together they hold significant potential for partnership, aimed at achieving the target of 50% indigenization of defense production in the Kingdom, as envisioned by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. Indeed, self-sufficiency in this sector can save valuable foreign exchange, create jobs for Saudi youth and ultimately, and most importantly, secure strategic autonomy and state sovereignty.