In an interesting twist to the Malaysian Air Force’s hunt for a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the China-Pakistani JF-17 fighter ‘Thunder’ appears to be a top contender, as per reports.
According to The Korea Times, Malaysian officials have confirmed that the Pakistani jet is competing with its South Korean counterpart for the requirement.
“Despite interest from a diverse group of manufacturers, the FA-50 and JF-17 are the finalists,” an unnamed official told the Korean newspaper.
Interestingly, it was reported earlier that Kuala Lumpur is additionally eyeing India’s indigenously-developed LCA Tejas Mk-1A. Reportedly, a Malaysian team would also be visiting India in the next two months to have a tour of the Tejas production facilities.
The LCA Tejas Mk-1A and JF-17 ‘Thunder’ have generated an interesting debate among military enthusiasts and defense experts worldwide.
However, diplomatic hurdles including the not-so-cordial ties between India and Malaysia have made it difficult for Tejas to make it through the Malaysian competition.
The main contenders include China-Pakistan’s JF-17, South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, Russian YAK-130, BAE Systems’ armed Hawk, Tejas Mk-1A, and the Swedish Gripen.
This single-engine China-Pakistan fighter is a fourth-generation lightweight combat jet that can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance.
Unlike its arch-rival HAL Tejas, the JF-17 is comparatively successful when one looks at its deployment in combat zones. It has taken part in counter-terrorism operations in northwest Pakistan as well as in 2019 ‘Operation Swift Retort’ in response to India’s Balakot airstrike to dismantle terror infrastructure.
The aircraft has a top speed of Mach 1.6 with the ability to supercruise. The JF-17 is able to deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, and has an internal 23 mm Russian GSh-23-2 twin-barrel autocannon.
KAI’s FA-50 ‘Golden Eagle’
After the failure of exports to Argentina due to the British embargo, this deal could compensate for the lost opportunity.
Jointly developed by South Korea’s aerospace company KAI and the American defense giant Lockheed Martin, the FA-50 is the fighter variant of T-50 supersonic trainer aircraft and has been exported to Iraq and the Philippines. This is also on offer to countries such as Croatia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The FA-50 has seen operational combat deployment mainly with the Philippine Air Force and has been used extensively in its fight against terrorists, including in the famous Battle of Marawi. On January 26, 2017, two FA-50PHs conducted the first combat sorties by the type, in a nighttime attack on terrorist hideouts in Butig, Lanao del Sur in Mindanao in the Philippines.
The aircraft has a top speed of Mach 1.5 and can carry a wide variety of western air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.