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Taliban raid: After another blow to its image, Pakistan's military regains control of base

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Air-tight reasons for attack?

Not every analyst is buying this conventional explanation for the attack, however. Some suggest foreign country involvement given the sophistication of the attack and the target.

Describing Mehran naval base as “humongous,” military strategist Rifaat Hussain says the militants had to have very detailed maps to find their way to the sensitive P3C Orion aircraft.

Pakistan started receiving upgrades to the P3Cs from the US under a 2006 deal. Four are currently in the US getting upgrades while five were on the Pakistani base before the attack. They are necessary for monitoring Pakistani waters and beyond for ships and submarines – a threat that would come from India’s growing naval might, not Islamic militants in the hills.

“It’s not possible to maintain [radar] surveillance over the vast [ocean] areas, so you’ve got these long range aircrafts which carry out maritime surveillance,” says P.K. Ghosh, a South Asian maritime expert based in New Delhi. “I think it’s a pretty big loss for the Pakistani naval aviation.”

Beyond their military use, the planes are also a symbol of US-Pakistani cooperation. Americans employed by Lockheed Martin work on the P3Cs at the base. Six Americans were on the base during the attack but are safe, according to the US embassy.

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