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China-Pak's new joint fighter a big draw at Farnborough Air Show

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A file photo of JF-17 fighter.

FARNBOROUGH/BEIJING (PTI): 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 international airshow in Farnborough, UK.

Priced at just $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.

The JF-17 ‘Thunder’, also known as FC-1, being jointly built by Kamra-based Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and Chengdu Aerospace Company, has debuted at the 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.

China has been active in the international aircraft market in recent years with the total value of the country's arms exports from 2005 to 2009 being $2.73 billion – about 2.3 per cent of the world market.

But Beijing's aircraft sales – worth up to $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 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,” Gary Li, an analyst from the independent British think-tank, The International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), said.

Besides Pakistan, the Chinese are selling fighters to Venezuela, Egypt and Myanmar. 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 country’s 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 if 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 their next generation heavy duty space launch vehicle, Long March-5, which is expected to be launched in 2014. The vehicles are designed to put into orbit heavy weight satellites.

The Chinese are also offering to launch other countries’ satellites.

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