Pakistan will acquire 110 latest JF-17 Thunder fighter jets from China as part of its efforts to expedite upgrading of its combat aircraft fleet. The reports come at the heels of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s high-profile visit to Pakistan.
Pakistan currently produces the JF-17 under license at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. But its limited production capacity is one reason Islamabad is purchasing ready to fly combat aircrafts. Radio Pakistan reported that China will deliver the first batch of 50 jets over a period of three years.
Pakistan has been aggressively using air power in its military campaign against Taliban extremists in the country’s restive northwestern regions along Afghanistan’s border. Pakistan Air Force aircraft and army gunship helicopters are being used in the operation against Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan and other tribal regions in FATA.
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (PAC/CAC) have been promoting the sale of JF-17 to many countries in the Middle East, Africa and even Europe. But it is yet to receive a major order.
Jane’s Defense Weekly reported in March this year, that Pakistan was also offering Bulgaria its JF-17s. Bulgaria, with a limited budget, is looking for acquisition of new combat aircraft.
China is also selling eight latest submarines to Pakistan, more than doubling its fleet, in a deal worth $4-5 billion.
Media has been reporting that Pakistan is also considering acquisition of 30 to 40 fourth generation stealth fighter (FC-31) aircraft from China with a view to pre-empting the rapidly increasing aerial dominance of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the region. But many defense analysts in Pakistan are ruling out such possibility at least for now.
The J-31 will be the first stealth fighter available on the global market for those who face US export restrictions or cannot afford the Lockheed Martin F-35.