Tuesday, May 24, 2022

After J-10, Pakistan To Get J-20 Stealth Fighters From China As Top Minister Calls Them ‘The Most Modern Aircraft’?

Pakistan has started to procure J-10C fighters jets from China, as the EurAsian Times previously reported. Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Pakistan’s interior minister, was the first official to announce the procurement last December when he said the newly-acquired jets would conduct a fly-past during the Pakistan Day celebration on March 23, 2022.

Last week, a video posted on social media purportedly showed six J-10Cs arriving at the Pakistan Air Force base at Minhas, Kamra. This was later confirmed by Rasheed Ahmad at a press conference. 

The minister also made a surprising comment that “We have the J-10C… God willing, a time will come… I am not sure when the J-20C will also come to Pakistan, which will be the most modern aircraft in the world…” 

Ahmad’s remark came only weeks after Pakistani and Turkish authorities suggested that the two countries were working together on the production of a stealth jet.

The J-20 is China’s fifth-generation fighter and was believed to have entered mass production in July 2020. It is currently in service with PLA Air Force, having first flown in 2011.

J-20 Stealth Aircraft For Pakistan?

China is a key supplier of weapons and other military equipment to Pakistan, a strategic arrangement to counterbalance India. Rasheed Ahmad had himself admitted previously that the J-10Cs are being purchased by Pakistan to counter India’s Rafale fighter jets.

J-20-CHINA
J-20 Stealth Aircraft

Nonetheless, the minister’s latest remark indicates Pakistan’s ambition to acquire the J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’. However, considering Pakistan’s fragile financial state, it’s unclear how the government will purchase a stealth combat jet.

Additionally, China has never openly expressed any intention to sell its J-20 fighters as Beijing wants to keep the top-of-the-line military capabilities to itself. The United States has a similar policy when it comes to its own stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

Chinese engine-equipped J-20 fighter proves plateau ability - Global Times
J-20s equipped with domestically-produced engines (China Military Online)

In a December 2014 interview with China’s Phoenix TV, Song Zhongping, a former officer from Beijing’s strategic missile force, disclosed the export ban of J-20 stealth aircraft. “The export of advanced Chinese military technology is prohibited,” Song said. “This is in order to keep J-20’s fifth-generation technology out of hostile hands.” 

This was the same argument used by the United States Congress when it legally barred the export of the F-22 stealth fighter in the mid-2000s. Prior to it, Japan had placed a request for F-22 Raptors. 

“If the US decides to export the F-22 in the future, China may consider lifting its ban as well,” according to Song.

According to expert estimates, the J-20 will cost between $100 and S$120 million each unit. Pakistan may not be able to bear the hefty purchase and maintenance cost of these jets. Besides, the country lacks the technical skills necessary to support and sustain fifth-generation aircraft.  

FC-31 Stealth Aircraft 

The export ban on the J-20 does not imply that China is abandoning the attractive global marketplace for radar-evading fighters. Shenyang Aircraft Corporation has launched the FC-31 stealth fighter prototype shortly after the J-20’s debut. Unlike the government-backed J-20, the FC-31 is entirely self-funded.

Pakistan is rumored to be a potential customer for the FC-31 stealth aircraft. The FC-31 is a single-seat, twin-engine, medium-sized multi-role fighter jet with stealth, situational awareness, high mobility, and highly integrated logistics, according to the manufacturer. The aircraft is expected to be reasonably priced in order to attract foreign customers.

Shenyang FC-31 - Wikipedia
Shenyang FC-31 – Wikipedia

The manufacturer of the FC-31 has recently established a separate office to promote the aircraft in the foreign market. Despite the fact that the FC-31 is not currently in PLAAF service, it looks that the manufacturer is striving to make it offered to the Chinese military. 

Pakistan could someday sign a deal to acquire these jets. China is proposing its FC-31 stealth fighter plane, which costs around US$70 million, or roughly half the price of the Lockheed Martin F-35.

However, it remains unclear how Pakistan will collaborate with Turkey to develop a fifth-generation fighter jet while it is still dreaming of a stealth aircraft from its all-weather ally China.

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