A SIGNIFICANT milestone was achieved by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) during a formal ceremony at PAF Base Shahbaz, Jacobabad, on March 3, when No 88 Squadron was formally renamed as 88 Combat Support Squadron and Advanced Helicopter Training School. At the same time, the unit officially inducted the AW139 helicopter into its inventory.
Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman, Chief of the Air Staff, PAF, was the chief guest on the occasion. During the ceremony, the ACM reviewed a guard of honour provided by personnel at the Base and a three-ship formation, comprising one Mi- 171 and two AW139s, carried out a flypast over the event. The latter comprised the first two AW139s with the unit, 17-001 (c/n 31764) and 17-002 (c/n 31766), which had been delivered last August. A further two, CSX 81922 (c/n 31781) and CSX81923 (c/n 31782), PAF serials not yet confirmed, were both delivered to the Squadron on November 23, 2017.
Speaking at the occasion, the ACM said, “PAF, after an in-depth analysis of the search and rescue platforms available worldwide, selected the AW-139 as the most effective solution for our requirements. The state-of-the-art machine that we have inducted is a manifestation of the stern commitment of the Pakistan Air Force to modernization and capability enhancement. I firmly believe that this will become a stepping stone in achieving more complex capabilities as regard to the helo fleet. The AW-139 promises a feature of enhancing PAF capability due to its versatile roles. The vision of taking the helo fleet of the PAF into 21st century could not have been achieved any other way.”
The AW139 will considerably enhance the night and maritime SAR capabilities of the Squadron, which previously flew the Mi-171. The Squadron will also serve as a conversion unit for training new pilots on the AW139.