The NESCOM Burraq is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) built and developed by the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), a civil scientific research and development organizarion of Pakistan, along with thePakistan Air Force (PAF).
Primarily used by the PAF, its applications have also been used by the Pakistan Army (PA) in its counterinsurgency operations. The Burraq carries different imagery and motion sensors, and it is equipped with a laser guided air-to-surfacemissile named “Barq.”.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations department of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, described the system as a “force multiplier”. The Burraq is also claimed to be “all-weather” capable and have “pinpoint accuracy.”
After its successful demonstration to fire missiles as both stationary and moving targets, Pakistan became the ninth country in the World to successfully domestically develop an unmanned combat aerial vehicle.
Since 2004, the United States (US) has been conducting controversial strikes through its own UCAV systems in Pakistan’s northwest territories, that target suspected militants in the region. For years, Pakistan had been pushing the US for acquiring the MQ-1 Predator, the main UCAV system the US uses in the strikes, but such requests had been denied amid fear of technology proliferation. Development is though to have primarily begun in 2009 with the contract being awarded to NESCOM in close coordination with thePAF.
Growing frustration over the US refusal and politicization of the US UCAV strikes in the country, the Burraq program is thought to have picked up its speed in secrecy.In 2012,China offered to help by selling Pakistan armed drones it had developed, but questions were raised about the capabilities of the drones. The first few models of the Burraq were only capable of surveillance and intelligence gathering, and lacked any offensive combat capability. Some of these early models were used by the Pakistani military to track down militants. The first combat capable version of the Burraq was first publicly demonstrated in March 2015.
The Burraq is thought to be mostly influenced by the US MQ-1 Predator and the Chinese CH-3.
About the Burraq program, the Popular Science reported noted: “with the Burraq, Pakistan can now do drone strikes on their own, without the United States.”
Origin of Name
The name, Burraq, comes from the legendary creature mentioned in al-Isra, (sura) in the Qur’an. According to Islamic theology, Buraq is a steed, described as a creature from the heavens which carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem, and back during the Isra and Mi’raj (lit. “Night Journey”), which is the title of one of the chapters al-Isra, (sura) in the Qur’an.
Use in the Military Operations
Before the Burraq was eventually publicly unveiled for the first time, the Pakistani military reportedly conducted several strikes using the UCAV, as part of Operation Khyber-1 military operations in the Tirah Valley.