The Pakistan Navy (PN) inducted several aerial platforms on 4 January in a ceremony held at Naval Air Station PNS Mehran in Karachi that was also attended by Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi.
Among the new platforms is the second of two ATR-72 twin-engine turboprops converted into maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) by Germany-based company Rheinland Air Service (RAS) under a contract signed in 2015.
The aircraft, the type of which is known as the RAS 72 Sea Eagle, was handed over to the PN after being introduced to the general public at the Paris Air Show 2019, which was held from 17 to 23 June 2019. The PN's first MPA of the type entered service in December 2018, also at PNS Mehran.
The PN also inducted another ATR-72 aircraft in a "cargo/para-drop role" that is expected to "provide added flexibility to special forces' operations", according to a statement issued by the service.
Also commissioned on 4 January were at least two LUNA NG reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from German manufacturer EMT, with Adm Abbasi being quoted as saying that these UAVs will further augment the service's "intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities in the maritime domain, especially in creeks areas and along the coastal belt".
Meanwhile, the admiral also stated that that the PN's plans include the acquisition of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to support maritime operations. However, no further details were provided in this regard.
The RAS 72 Sea Eagle is equipped with a long-range, active electronically scanned array (AESA) multimode radar, as well as electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensors to deliver aerial, maritime, and ground surveillance, according to RAS.
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