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