Chinese fighters make wave at Farnborough Air Show
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Last Updated: Thursday, July 22, 2010, 12:06
Farnborough/Beijing: China and Pakistan are jointly developing a stealth version of the JF-17, an upgraded type of MIG-21, with the new fighters making waves at the ongoing prestigious airshow in Farnborough.

Priced at just USD 15 million, the multi-purpose fighter is giving a run to American, Western and Russian war machines which have price tags five to seven times higher.

JF-17 Thunder, also known as FC-1, being jointly built by Kamra-based Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aerospace Company (CAC) has made its first appearance at an international air show having flown in Farnborough after making refuelling stops in Saudi Arabia and Turkey and is proving a big draw.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is expected to acquire around 250 JF-17s, with 100 of the original JF-17 configuration and 150 of the stealth multi-role combat aircraft (MCRA) between 2015 and 2025.

"Currently China is engaged in a very rapid series of aircraft upgrades and diversification," said Gary Li, London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies’ analyst.

He further noted that the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) is currently strong only in terms of size.

China has been active in the international aircraft market in recent years with the total value of the country's arms exports from 2005-09 being USD 2.73 billion about 2.3 percent of the world market.

But Beijing's aircraft sales - worth up to USD 815 million - are larger than any other of its weapon exports and are mostly to Pakistan.

"Chinese companies offer very attractive packages. The US never sells its latest generation of aircraft, or sell critical technologies.

"In contrast, China sells packages, not just the aircraft, but also technology and expertise - such as production licenses for domestic assembly, technical assistance and other after-sales support, Li said.

Besides Pakistan, the Chinese are selling fighters to Venezuela, Egypt and Myanmar, but now the country is planning to expand its export market.

China is also putting on market its state-of-the-art new fighters like J-11B and J-10, expecting to corner the lower end fighter market.

But the Chinese ambitious plans to corner a segment of fighter market could run into problems as the aircraft are all powered by Russian engines.

"They could hit choke point it the Russians stop supply of engines," Li admitted.

"How many aircraft can China produce a year if Russia stops selling its engines to Beijing?" Li was quoted as saying by state run China Daily here.

"China needs to solve this problem within 10 years if it wishes to continue the overhaul of the PLA Air Force and the development of the new generation of fighters", he said.

The Chinese have also put on display its next generation heavy duty space launch vehicle called Long March-5 which is expected to be launched in 2014. The vehicles are designed to put into orbit heavy weight satellites and space stations.

The Chinese are offering to launch other countries satellites, naturally at a price.


First Published: Thursday, July 22, 2010, 12:06

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