Pak set to get 8 JF-17 fighter jets next year
Karachi, Nov 22: Pakistan is set to get the first batch of eight medium-technology fighter jets from China next year and the country would start manufacturing them locally from January 2008, a senior military official said today.
''We shall...have te first two (JF-17 Thunder fighter) aircraft on March 23rd, while the remaining of the first batch of eight aircraft will also arrive next year,'' Air Marshal Khalid Choudhry, Chairman of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, told Reuters.
''The hardcore production of JF-17 in Pakistan will start in January 2008.'' According to the agreement between China and Pakistan, once full production starts, half the planes would be produced in China and half in Pakistan.
Chengu Aircraft Design Institute designed the aircraft and the prototypes were manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Company, both based in China's Sichuan province.
Choudhry said the medium-technology aircraft, a joint production with China, matches the Mirage in performance but has better avionics and weapons.
Air force officials said the JF-17 could achieve a speed of 1.6 Mach, altitude of 55,000 feet (16,760 metres) and carry weapons of modern warfare.
The JF-17 are due to replace the ageing fleet of Mirage 3 and 5, A-5 and F-7 aircraft.
Choudhry said the Pakistan Air Force was looking to acquire 200 to 300 such aircraft, while the Chinese Air Force would also acquire some.
''We plan to start producing 20 to 25 aircraft every year from 2008, and they would be the main strength of the Pakistan Air Force,'' Choudhry said on the sidelines of a four-day arms exhibition in the port city of Karachi.
He said Pakistan also planned to export JF-17 once its full production started in the country.
''This aircraft will cost less then 20 million dollars, so it is a very attractive equipment for the third world and developing countries who has small air forces and small budget,'' he said.
''A number of countries have already approached us,'' he said hoping that Pakistan Aeronautical Complex would start getting orders from other countries by next year.
Pakistan is mainly dependent on imports from the United States, France and China to meet its defence needs.
Last month, Pakistan and the United States signed a letter of acceptance for a multi-billion dollar package to supply the Pakistan Air Force with 18 new F-16 warplanes, as well as an unspecified number of upgraded second-hand F-16s.
The United States will also sell Pakistan missile weaponry and other support infrastructure, and upgrade Pakistan's present fleet of 34 old-model F-16s.