How China armed Pakistan's Air Force with JF-17 Thunder - backbone of PAF
Pakistan reportedly aims to have 250-300 JF-17s to upgrade its fighter fleet and be less dependent on the US-made F-16.
Pakistan Air Force
It is no secret China has been helping to develop the Pakistan Air Force in recent years. A New York Times article last year had said that Pakistani Air Force (PAF) and Chinese officials have put "final touches" to expand PAF.
The report also revealed that China was trying to "deepen" cooperation with Pakistan in its space programme, a worrying development for India.
Image: (Pakistani jets perform aerobatic manouvers during the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2018. [Source: AFP]).
JF-17 is an 'alternative to the US-built F-16 fighters'
Some media reports claimed that the Chinese J-17 aircraft had brought down India's MiG-21 Bison which was being piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan.
The US, however, now wants to know from the Pakistan government if its F-16 was used during ariel combat over J&K last week. The investigation into the air strikes and the resulting confusion continues.
The NYT report last year had stated that JF-17 had given the PAF an "alternative to the US-built F-16 fighters." Pakistan reportedly assembles the Chinese plane in Kamra Aeronautical Complex in Punjab province.
Pakistan's alliance with the Chinese Air Force is tied with Belt and Road initiative (BRI), part of China-Pakistan Economic Cooperation (CPEC), the NYT report said.
The Pakistan Foreign Office was quick to dismiss the NYT report declaring that CPEC was an economic project and had no military component.
Image: (A newly manufactured multi-roll light weight fighter aircraft - the JF-17 Thunder, built by Pakistan with the assistance of China, is painted with the Pakistani (R) and Chinese national flags as it participates in a fly past during the parade marking Pakistan Day in Islamabad, 23 March 2007.[Soure: AFP]).
PAF eyeing JF-17 Thunder in a big way
A few years ago, newswire ANI had claimed that the PAF was reportedly considering buying between 30 to 40 of the Chinese stealth combat aircrafts to replace the US-made F-16 fighter jets.
China's cooperation with Pakistan goes as far back as the late 1960s after the India-Pakistan 1965 war when the Chinese military delivered the Shenyang F-6 to take on India's MiG-19.
Pakistan also brought the Q-5s and F-7s to take on the MiGs.
A Pakistani media report quoted former defence minister said the country needed 250 aircraft and was eyeing the JF-17 Thunder in a big way.
A Pakistani media report claimed in 2015 that Pakistan intended to buy 110 latest JF-17 Thunder fighter jets from China. The report claimed that batch of 50 jets would be shipped to Pakistan over the next three years.
Although, Pakistan has also been producing the jets but the report claimed that the government needed to upgrade its Air Force at a faster rate due to its fight against Taliban militants.
Gwadar port, part of CPEC, is the focal point of transport and sale of the Chinese jets.
Image: (A Pakistani JF-17 Thunder aircraft flys during the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2018.[Source: AFP]).
China-Pak JF-17 Thunder vs India's Light Combat Aircraft Tejas
India's biggest weapon against China-Pak JF-17 fighter is the Tejas. India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is the smallest and lightest Multi-Role Supersonic fighter aircraft.
With the upgrade of the MiG fighters plaguing the IAF, the single-engine aircraft has become India's biggest bet against the new Chinese threat in the hands of the Pakistanis. India, however, is yet to ramp up production of the aircraft.
India has a Tejas squadron Flying Daggers at the Yelahanka Air Base at Bangalore, now shifted to Sulur Air Force Station in Coimbatore.
There are now calls to fast-track the Tejas programme. It made its debut in the Bahrain International Air Show in 2016. The Tejas is also in contention for export to Malaysia and UAE.