JF - 17 for $10 million less than Russia`s $30 million MiG-29.
PAF has now offered to sell JF-17 Thunder fighter to friendly countries.
By Air Marshal ( R ) Ayaz A Khan
The first JF-17 Thunder squadron was inducted into the PAF in 2009. The induction 150 of state of the art Pak-China built JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, will enhance operational capability of Pakistan Air Force. With improved performance for ground attack and air defense, Pakistani air power should be able to destroy the terrorist net works in North Waziristan, and elsewhere in FATA along the Pak-Afghan border. With electronic and visual detection systems and precision weapons, stocks of illegal munitions hidden by the criminals in caves could be blasted, and terrorist hideouts leveled. Its enhanced air-land and air defense capability will be assets to ward-off external aggression.
The news that the PAF could buy over 250 JF-17 Thunders therefore is welcome. It is a beautifully designed, affordably priced, jointly built multi-role fighter aircraft, which should attract customers from all over the world. The decision to sell Pak manufactured JF-17 Thunder fighters abroad will enable several African, Latin American and Asian countries, including Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries to place orders now to benefit from early orders for this fine fighting machine.
The JF-17 is a joint Chinese-Pakistani project that aimed to reduce Pakistan’s dependence on western countries for advanced fighters. By fielding a low-cost multi-role lightweight fighter with modern electronics PAF has taken a big leap and bold step to bridge the numerical and qualitative gap with the Indian Air Force, which remains a primary threat. The West dominated arms market would be challenged in days to come by China, India and Pakistan subject to their ability to master aviation technology, and manufacture quality defense products, especially aircraft. During the recent Farnborough Air Show in England two JF-17 Thunder fighters on display were admired by the thousands of defense experts and received high accolades from specialists. Farnborough is show case of the world aviation industry. The Air Staff took a bold decision to fly out two JF-17 Thunder fighters to the UK, and put them on display at Farnborough. It is therefore a matter of satisfaction that several countries including Turkey have evinced interest to procure and buy JF-17 Thunder fighters from Pakistan.
China will soon decide to procure the JF-17 Thunder fighter for the PLAAF-The Peoples Liberation Army Air Force. Beijing needs to expedite its decision to induct the JF-17 Thunder fighter into the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). If China delays procurement, other nations could do the same. Though the Pak-China made JF-17 Thunder should be evaluated and assessed on merit. China offered to sell twenty JF-17 Thunder fighters to the Myanamar (Burma) Air Force. The generals led government observed that the MAF will buy it after PLAAF inducts it for operational use. After Pakistan signed an agreement for the first 42 operational JF-17 Thunder aircraft, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex -PAC was seeking additional agreements with Western firms for avionics and weapons upgrades. Fed up with Western foot dragging Pakistan has decided instead to install advanced China made avionics including radars, and BVR missiles. The excessive delay in India’s competing Tejas fighter is because of project delays in the procurement of foreign component, especially engines. Dependence on the West must be cut to the minimum to give a boost to the indigenous manufacture of aircraft. The excellent Pakistan and China cooperation has helped on schedule manufacture and supply of Thunder fighters to the PAF.
PAF has now offered to sell JF-17 Thunder fighter to friendly countries. Such offers off-course will be in cooperation with China and with Chinese approval. FJ-17 Thunder fighter is expected to be priced around US dollars 20 million. Similar American, French, Swedish fighter aircraft are in the price range of 40 to 60 million dollars each. While sale to friendly countries is a good idea, selling and buying defense equipment is a highly complex activity. America does not allow sale of weapons to countries it does not approve off. Islamic Republic of Iran could be a good prospective buyer of Pakistan made defense equipment. But despite good relations, Pakistan has never offered Pakistan made weapons for sale to Iran. Pakistan being under US fiscal obligation and political pressure is unlikely to offer JF-17 Thunder for sale to Iran. The two countries have set up a joint JF-17 marketing agency to promote international export sales, and their offering has received initial interest from Turkey and some other countries. Major General Muhammad Farooq, director general of Pakistan’s Defence Export Promotion Organisation (DEPO), described the JF-17 in early April as an ideal “choice for countries which are mindful of their finances.”
Marketing and sale of industrial goods and defense products needs high organizational and logistics competence and marketing expertise. In Western countries especially in America the defense industry is in private hands. All manufacturing and trading corporations hire qualified and experienced managers to handle sale and marketing. Unqualified bureaucrats or military officers learn on the job, and lack marketing sense or expertise. Many foreign companies employ Asians viz Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Koreans and Pakistani’s in their sale and marketing departments. They are hard working professionals, who earn millions for the companies they work for and are paid well.
Equally important is the defense sale organization tasked to sell JF-17 Thunder fighter and defense equipment manufactured in Pakistan. Ministry of Defense already has the all important Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Defense Production. One more division, under a Secretary Aviation Marketing may be added to handle sale and purchase of aircraft, radars, related avionics and spares. The US, European countries and Russia have high expertise in the field of defense marketing. Pakistan and China will have to compete in this highly competitive field. And it will be impossible to do so without marketing and logistics infrastructure and expertise.