Pakistan Eyes Chinese Jets To Counter Indian Air Force Dominance
Pakistan eyes Chinese jets to counter IAF dominance Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter.
The Pakistani military authorities are determined to acquire 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.
Conceding that senior Pakistani defense officials were already holding talks with their Chinese counterparts to acquire the fourth generation stealth aircraft (also called Shenyang FC31 Multi-Purpose Medium Fighter Jets), informed sources in the security establishment said that Pakistan has been made to approach China and Russia to fulfill its defense procurements as the Pak-US ties continue to chill, despite General Raheel Shareef’s recent visit to the United States.
The Pakistani defense officials are already in the process of signing an agreement with Russia to purchase 20 Mi-35 gunship helicopters which can be operated in the mountainous terrain of the Waziristan region where a military operation is in full swing against the Taliban militants.
The sources said Pakistan wants to procure the Chinese FC31 aircraft as part of its ongoing efforts to boost the air combat capabilities of the PAF and offset the growing strength of the Indian Air Force in the region.
International media reports say China is offering its 18 tonne J-31 stealth fighter to export customers as the FC-31.
The FC-31 stealth fighter jet reportedly matches a strong need for fifth generation fighters by the Pakistan Air Force, which is already struggling to find an aircraft to go up against the Russian-made T-50 fifth-generation fighter, being acquired by India.
The twin-engine FC-31 fighter jet resembles the American Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, being produced by Lockheed Martin Corporation. FC-31 is the export version of the Shenyang J-31 which is already flying since 2012 and is powered by two Russian-made engines.
Designed to fly close air support, air interdiction and other missions, the Pakistan Air Force intends to buy FC-31 to replace the American-made F-16s, although it is to employ tactical rather than stealth aircraft in actual missions to support ground troops.
Being produced by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, China’s Shenyang FC-31 Fighter Jet is intended to be a rival to the American F-35 and Russian Sukhoi Su-35. The Chinese fighter jet was displayed at the recently held air show in China’s Zhuhai city in Guangdong Province.
Some 300 purchase deals worth a record $23.5bn were signed at the show which concluded on November.
The 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition witnessed sales of 227 aircraft of different types. Over 700 aviation and aerospace manufacturers from 40-plus countries attended the six-day air show where 130 aircraft were displayed.
A high level Pakistani military delegation led by Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt also attended the air show.
According to the sources, after attending the air show, Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt also held talks with the Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan and discussed bilateral military ties including co-operation between the air forces of the two friendly neighboring states. Air Chief Marshal Rafique Butt’s China visit followed signing of $46bn worth agreements between Beijing and Islamabad during the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on November 8, 2014.
FC-31 fighter jet is one of China’s most ambitious export fighter programmed yet, under which it is seeking to develop a relatively low cost multi-role platform with an emphasis on strike capabilities and incorporating some degree of stealth.
Federal Minister for Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain has already said on November 22 that the Pakistan Air Force has expressed interest in procuring stealth fighter aircraft from China and the matter is being discussed with Chinese authorities.
But well-informed sources say having decided to buy FC-31 aircraft, the Pakistani authorities have begun talks with their Chinese counterparts to sign a deal which seems to have become a subject of speculation in the Indian defense circles ever since the holding of the Zhuhai Air Show in China where FC-31 was unveiled.
Explaining the reason behind Pakistani efforts to boost its air combat capabilities, a senior security official said while requesting anonymity that the Pakistan Air Force has traditionally been the quality air force while the Indian Air Force has been the numerically superior air force. “However, with the passage of time, it is now believed that the Indian Air Force has become better both qualitatively and quantitatively compared with its Pakistani counterpart.
Hence, Pakistan wants to overcome this imbalance in its air combat capabilities when compared with the Indian Air Forces. Subsequently, Pakistan is concentrating on modernization of its air power in line with the Armed Forces Development Plan 2025 by seeking defense deals with China and Russia as well”.
In fact, the Pak-China arms trading relationship dates back 50 years ago – after the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 when the United States had placed an embargo on weapons sales to Pakistan. This compelled Pakistan to turn to China to secure combat aircraft, specifically, the Shenyang F-6, which was a clone of the Russian MiG-19. Since then, the Pakistani Air Force has also fielded Q-5s and F-7s from China, of which the MiG-21 based F-7s, are still in use by the PAF although a bit out-dated, these Chinese aircraft have been fielded alongside American F-16s and French Mirages for decades.
But the foremost deviation into Chinese-based air combat procurement made by Pakistan was with the JF-17 Thunder (also known as FC-1 fighter) which is an advanced, light- weight, all weather, and day/night multi-role fighter aircraft and developed as a joint venture between the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra and the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation of China.
Pakistan views this fighter jet program as a giant success, not just in value and enhanced combat capability, but also in potential future exportability.
Defense production minister Rana Tanveer Hussain is on record having said: “We have confirmed orders from seven Middle Eastern and African countries for JF-17.
The PAF has a requirement of 250 aircraft, but now we have decided that we will sell some of the JF-17 Block-2 to international buyers besides fulfilling our local demand.”