Pakistan hopes to take delivery within the next six months of 50 JF-17 fighter jets manufactured jointly with China, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar said on Friday during a visit to Beijing.
Mukhtar made the comments on the sidelines of a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
“We think there is a good deal,” said Mukhtar, who put the price of each JF-17, or Thunder, aircraft at $20-25 million “as compared to $80 million for the F16”, a US-built jet also used by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
Mukhtar did not explicitly state whether the deal had been finalised, but it appeared that the agreement was nearing completion.
Further details of the deal were not made public but the agreement was apparently discussed during the visit by Gilani.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal originally quoted an unnamed high-ranking PAF spokesman, in Beijing with Gilani, as saying the jointly developed JF-17 jets would be in addition to another batch of the same aircraft that is currently being assembled in Pakistan.
China is one of Pakistan’s largest aircraft providers. The PAF has a fleet of Chinese aircraft, including F-7PGs and A-5s. The JF-17 “Thunder” programme dates back to 1999 and is aimed at reducing Pakistan’s dependence on Western companies for advanced fighters.
The jets are a single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft, which Mukhtar said are being jointly produced between China and Pakistan.
“There was a loan given for starting the manufacturing of this because the Chinese will also buy these aircraft,” he said on Chinese financing for the order.
The Pakistani Air Force has ordered 150 “Thunders”, which it may increase to 250. The 50 mentioned in the report are likely part of the larger order. In February 2010, Pakistan fielded its first JF-17 squadron with 14 aircraft.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.
Correction: May 21, 2011
The earlier headline of this article incorrectly called the JF-17 a stealth jet. The correction has been made.