Blood and Money in Ashes

Posted on May 24, 2011 by


PNS Mehran Terrorists Attack

by Jareer Ahsan

Just three weeks and a few warm-up revenge ventures later, reportedly 15-20 Taliban militants stormed Pakistan’s naval air force headquarters on May 22. An overnight battle ensued and lasted till early office hours next day, enabling our overzealous media to make a boatload of money. However, this was a cowardly act, as rightfully pointed out by our dear Prime Minister:

“Such a cowardly act of terror could not deter the commitment of the government and people of Pakistan to fight terrorism”[1]

It was as spineless as their attack on the Military GHQ in Rawalpindi back in October 2009. However, one cannot help but wonder as to what would qualify as audacious.

Anyhow, apart from the usual, they also managed to blow up two of our recently acquired P-3C Orion aircraft, which were supposedly bought to gain “a control capability over land against transnational terrorists and narcotics smugglers.” [2] Now this has American conspiracy written all over it. How could Lockheed or DSCA have failed to mention that this aircraft is utterly useless against domestically bred terrorists? A point categorically made and empirically proven by TTP in their latest assault. However, here we cannot blame our drunkard generals (or admirals in this case) who may have misread the specifications printed on the box. We all know how hard it is to procure quality liquor in this country and who in his right mind can resist the free open bar at the Lockheed Sales Office specially designated for customers from Muslim countries?[x] These Americans are devious I tell you.

In view of keeping our escapist tradition alive, one can rudely point out that if they were so worthless, why bother? Well, they were not worthless; they were a marvel of sheer technological beauty despite their apparent shortcoming – but more on that later. And fortunately enough, we are yet to receive six more of these aircraft by 2012. Yes, we generously ordered eight P-3C Orion aircrafts back in Nov, 2004 for a measly sum of $970 million.[2]

By way of background, these land-based maritime patrol aircraft were originally introduced in the 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis and are among the most elderly still in service with over 14 million hours of collective service time proudly under their belt.[3][4] But now the US is having a hard time keeping these old buggers in air. So, US Naval Air System Command commissioned Lockheed with $81.2 million just for ‘enhanced special structural inspections’ and maintenance of its P-3 fleet. These inspections are considered vital to keep these aircrafts flying safely as they reach the end of their airframe lives. [5] Some imprudent analysts also consider this gem of a technology to be merely used in a ‘stopgap capacity’ until the next generation replacement becomes available. [6]

India, our nemesis, leading monster of our recurrent national nightmares, displayed the usual penny-pinching in this case. They initially only showed interest in buying two such aircraft, (duh, buying anything below half a dozen looks so shameful) and then unabashedly cancelled the deal for its expense, support costs and timing[7] – I say, typical Hindu mentality. And now they are pretending to buy a few Boeing P8I aircrafts, supposedly next generation MMA (Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft), expected to be operational around 2012-2014.[8] They say P8I will replace P-3 Orion series around the world. Well, not ours, unless we like the curves of its tail, or our home grown fanatics punctually blow up the rest of the P-3Cs as they arrive.

Now one should be able to appreciate our love for classical war machines by the amount we have so generously spent on these aircraft so far. We started with a $970 million deal in 2004, then requested “40 AGM-84L (air-launched) and 20 RGM-84L (surface-launched) Grade B Canister HARPOON Block II missiles”[9] partly to equip these aircraft along with their predecessors P-3B aircraft that we have (oh dear lord! my earnest apologies for this lapse of memory, these P-3B PMAs are a beauty even more splendid, but I’ll resist my urge to digress here). We were still not satisfied with the paint job on some of these missiles, so we ordered an upgrade of a mere $15.8 million for 10 of them. Then we ordered some more missiles and other assorted accessories for another $370 million in 2006. In Jan 2007, our first aircraft was polished and ready to be handed over to us, but they chose to keep it for a while and we gladly paid them for taking care of it. However, by now we had realized that they still lacked that oomph factor and had obsolete radar technology, so, with the uncompromising attitude that is one of our national characteristics, we got them upgraded too, this time for just around $186.5 million. After that, over the course of the next three years, we spent a few more hundred million dollars just to shape these little rascals up until, in Jan 2010, our second aircraft was ready to be handed over. We wept in joy. The momentous day dawned and the US Navy handed over these two refurbished aircraft on 30th April 2010 and on 1st Jun 2010 we finally, ever so lovingly, inducted them at PNS Mehran.[9] But before these baby boomers could see their first birthday in Pakistan, 51st internationally (roughly speculated), they were mercilessly ripped apart by bearded bazookas in the shadows of a humid night.

After going through this heartfelt tale myself, I have come to realize that it was not the Americans’ fault, neither the drunkenness of our generals (or admirals in this case). Alas, all we have to blame for this fiasco is our blind love, and forlorn we stand in it.

In the end, without further pun and verbosity, even under a prudent estimate we have spent at least more than $1.5 billion on these archaic aircraft alone, two of which were blown to smithereens by TTP militants in a single night. For a rough comparison, just to put it in perspective, consider the total amount we allocated for education and health combined in 2009-2010 as a country: a staggering $0.64 billion.

I realize that I have titled this article ‘Blood and Money’ but as you know, blood comes extremely cheap in comparison to all this in our land of the pure, so it is only wasteful to spend time and energy on its loss. It is merely there for dramatic effect.

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