Saturday, November 20, 2010
Pakistan to arm fighter aircraft with Chinese missiles
Beijing: Pakistan has confirmed it will buy Chinese missiles and flight systems to equip its 250 JF-17 Thunder jet fighters as it seeks to deepen military cooperation with Beijing, state media said Thursday.
Rao Qamar Suleman, air chief marshal of the Pakistan Air Force, told the Global Times newspaper Chinese radar systems and SD-10 mid-range homing missiles would be used on the fighters co-developed by the two nations.
"PAF has no plans to install Western devices and weapons on the aircraft for the time being," the newspaper quoted Suleman as saying.
Pakistan may also buy up to four Chinese surface-to-air missiles, as it seeks stronger cooperation with China to help upgrade its armed forces, Suleman told the China Daily in a separate interview.
He made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual Zhuhai Air Show now under way in southern China.
Chinese defence experts played down the comments, saying any cooperation did not target any country and did not compare with deals adopted during a visit to India this month by US President Barack Obama, the China Daily said.
Among the deals struck during Obama's trip was a preliminary accord worth 4.1 billion dollars for India's air force to buy 10 C-17 transport aircraft from US aviation giant Boeing.
Pakistan had initially planned on arming its JF-17 fighters with missiles made by French firm Thales SA in a deal reportedly worth 1.2 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars).
But French officials confirmed to AFP in April the deal had been put on hold without explanation. The French daily Le Monde reported that it was cancelled to avoid damaging relations with Pakistan's nuclear rival India.
China is a strong ally of Pakistan and Islamabad draws heavily on Beijing for its defence and infrastructure needs.
Pakistan's air force has a fleet of Chinese aircraft, including F-7PGs and A-5s, but also US-built F-16s and French Mirages. The medium-tech JF-17 or Thunder jets, manufactured jointly with China, are a recent addition.