Pakistan Buying Chinese J-10 Fighters
Pakistan and China have been cooperating for a number of years on the JF-17/ FC-1 Thunder, a low-medium performance, low-cost aircraft that has attracted interest and orders from a number of 3rd World air forces. In November 2009, a long-rumored deal was announced for China’s Jian-10/ FC-20 4+ generation fighter, whose overall performance compares well with the F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft that Pakistan has ordered from the United States.
The J-10 has been reported as a derivative of the 1980s Israeli Lavi project, and reportedly incorporates an Israeli fly-by-wire control base that was transferred in the project’s early years. The change in relations that followed the Tienanmen Square massacre hurt the J-10 project badly, however, forcing the replacement of planned Western avionics and engines with Chinese and Russian equipment. The required redesign was very extensive, affected all areas of the airframe, and took over a decade, amounting to the development of a new aircraft. The first operational J-10 unit entered service with the PLAAF in July 2004.
China has reportedly ordered 100 J-10s to date. The initial Pakistani order is for 2 squadrons, but could expand as technical cooperation and orders increase. The $1+ billion sale represents the J-10’s first export order… but almost certainly not its last.
Contracts and Key Events
Nov 11/09: Widespread reports surface that Pakistan has signed a $1.4 billion contract for 36 of CATIC’s Jian-10 fighters, which will be known as FC-20 in Pakistan. The deal is described as a preliminary agreement, and there are reports that Pakistan may eventually be interested in acquiring up to 150 of these aircraft. Retired Pakistani general Abdul Qayyum is qoted as saying that:
“The agreement should not simply be seen in the narrow context of Pakistan’s relations with China… There is a wider dimension. By sharing its advanced technology with Pakistan, China is … also saying to the world that its defence capability is growing rapidly.”
The UK’s Financial Times echoes this theme, noting that the $21.7 billion Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) group is rapidly emerging as a big military goods exporter. The group is also involved in China’s civilian aircraft program, and gives only total revenue figures, but the Financial Times quotes industry sources who believe a recent remerger of 2 split-out groups late in 2008 was aimed at creating a bigger and internationally competitive player.
It is not clear whether Pakistan’s FC-20s will carry Russian Salyut AL-31FN turbofans (17,130/ 27,557 pounds dry/afterburner thrust) that are similar to the engines in many SU-27 family aircraft, or the larger Chinese WS-10A derivative (reportedly a lesser 16,523/ 24,729 pounds dry/afterburner thrust) developed by China’s AVIC Aviation Engine Institute and Shenyang Liming Aero-Engine Group. Pakistan’s Daily Times | IBN Live | Press Trust of India | Times of India | UK Financial Times.
March 7/09: The Associated Press of Pakistan reports that a contract for 42 co-produced JF-17/ FC-1 fighters has been signed in Islamabad by China’s CATIC and the Pakistani Air Force, financed by “seller’s credit.” Production capacity is listed at 15 aircraft in the first year, rising to 30 aircraft per year thereafter. Pakistan has been flying 8 aircraft to work out tactics, techniques, and procedures, and expects to stand up the first JF-17 squadron before the end of 2009. The aircraft will be based at Peshawar, alongside existing Chinese-made Q-5/A-5C “Fantan” fighters that are a hugely modified Chinese derivative of the MiG-19, and their accompanying JJ-6/FT-6 MiG-19 trainers.
The article adds a quote from Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed. He reiterates that cooperation on China’s canard-winged J-10/FC-20 is also progressing, with first deliveries to Pakistan expected in 2014-15. CATIC’s President MA Zhiping reportedly added that the first FC-20 aircraft built under that agreement would fly in 2009. APP | Pakistan’s The News.
March 29/07: Pakistan’s The News International references an interview that Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed gves to Jane’s:
“On other important projects with China, the Pakistani air chief also revealed that Pakistan is well advanced in negotiations with China on the possible acquisition of up to 40 J-10 fighters which are the most advanced fighter aircrafts so far produced by China. Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf was given a detailed briefing on the J-10 during his last visit to China.
“We are serious in our discussions and, as air chief, I look forward to getting this programme (of the J-10) to a stage where we can contract this. I am looking at two squadrons of aircraft, anywhere between 32 and 40 platforms,” said the Air chief.”