An unidentified Middle Eastern country is in “advanced” talks to make the first foreign purchase of a fighter jet jointly developed by Pakistan and China.
The joint sales team from the Pakistan Air Force and China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation also known as CATIC, are in advanced talks with 10 other countries to sell the JF-17 Thunder, said PAF Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood, who heads sales and marketing for the fighter jet.
“We are in advanced negotiations with a Middle Eastern country, but the political situation over there has delayed the deal,” said Mahmood in an interview at the Zhuhai Air Show yesterday, declining to give more details. “But we still expect them to be our first foreign client.”
The JF-17 Thunder fighter jet is among several aircraft China is seeking to export, after designating its domestic aerospace sector as a key national strategic industry. The twin-engine jet was jointly designed and manufactured by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China, also known as AVIC.
The partners are in “advanced talks” with clients in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America for jet sales, Mahmood said. He declined to identify any of them. Prospective orders will be for the third block of 50 planes, with the Pakistan Air Force having ordered the first two blocks of 50.
Mahmood said there are plans in place for a dual-seater version of the JF-17 Thunder after feedback from potential clients. The third-generation fighter jet, also known as FC-1 Dragon by the Chinese, can be used for aerial reconnaissance and has air-to-air and air-to-surface combat capabilities, according to its product website.
Flightglobal, an aviation-related website, previously reported that the partnership was close to making its first foreign sale.
A mock up of the single-seat, single-engine JF-17 is on display at the Zhuhai Air Show that started Nov. 11 in the province of Guangdong, along with several others produced by AVIC -- including the J-31, one of China’s fifth-generation stealth fighters.
The J-31 gave its first public demonstration at China’s largest air show on Tuesday. Manufactured by a Shenyang AVIC subsidiary, the fighter is a test of the country’s ability to deliver cutting-edge defense technology.
Still largely-shrouded in secrecy, the production of the fighter could add heft to China’s sea and air expansion in the region and its push-back against decades of U.S. economic and military dominance.