The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has expressed interest in procuring fourth generation stealth fighter aircraft FC-31 from China.
Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain told Dawn.com on Friday the matter was being discussed with Chinese authorities.
It is for the first time that a senior government functionary has confirmed talks with China over purchase of the longer-range stealth aircraft — an issue that has been a subject of speculation in defence circles since the 10th edition of the Zhuhai Air Show (China) held earlier this month, when the aircraft was unveiled.
The Jane’s Defence Weekly had quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying that the PAF was holding talks with China for the purchase of 30 to 40 of the Shenyang FC-31 fighter planes and that discussions had gone beyond initial inquiries.
The FC-31 is being developed by China primarily for the export market. Chinese officials claim that several countries have expressed interest in the aircraft believed to be comparable to US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
A prototype of the aircraft, designated as J-31, has been flown by the Chinese aircraft research and development firm Shenyang Aviation Company for a couple of years now.
What particularly interests the PAF is that FC-31 prototype (J-31) and JF-17 use the same Russian Klimov RD-93 engines.
Pakistan is increasingly relying on China as a reliable source for its defence procurements.
Mr Hussain said that Pakistan was also interested in Chinese attack helicopter Z-10.
China and Pakistan had earlier co-produced JF-17 Thunder. Pakistan has been eagerly trying to market this fighter aircraft.
“We have nearly confirmed orders from seven countries for JF-17,” Mr Hussain said.
Pakistan, which is at present producing Block-2 of JF-17 at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, is eying orders from countries in the Middle East and Africa.
“The PAF has a requirement of 250 aircraft, but now we have decided that we’ll sell some of the JF-17 Block-2 to international buyers besides fulfilling our local demand,” the minister said.
The minister sounded upbeat about the upcoming four-day defence exhibition IDEAS 2014 beginning in Karachi on Dec 1.
Some 175 companies, including 34 local firms, are participating in the international event this year.
Mr Hussain said a few MoUs and agreements on joint ventures were expected to be signed during the exhibition, but no orders were expected at the event.
“The basic spirit behind the exhibition is to increase interaction with defence industry (officials) of other countries and provide exposure to our own industry,” he said.