In a move that could further add to the growing tensions between New Delhi and Beijing, China has agreed to sell up to 150 of its most advanced home-made J-10 fighter jets to Pakistan in a deal potentially worth $6 billion, according to reports.
The South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday that the two countries had agreed on the sale and that Pakistan wanted them “delivered soon”. The paper quoted an unnamed official of the China Aviation Industries Corporation (AVIC), which manufactured the aircraft. The report was not immediately confirmed by authorities in Beijing.
China and Pakistan first began negotiating a deal over the sale of 36 J-10 in 2006 during Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Beijing. Reports said Pakistan would first purchase 36 aircraft, but the deal could eventually see Islamabad buying up to 150 aircraft.
The two countries were yet to agree on a price, with Pakistan offering $15 million less than Beijing’s $40 million asking price, the report said.
The development of China’s indigenous military capabilities is seen by defence experts as a statement of Beijing’s rising military power and influence in the region. The deal would be a watershed for China’s indigenous military manufacturing industry, and could herald its arrival as a major military supplier in the region, said analysts.
The J-10, or Chengdu Jian-10 to give it its full name, is China’s most advanced indigenously developed combat aircraft and is a third generation fighter, equivalent to an American F-16. The United States is the only country that has a more advanced fourth generation fighter in service, the F-22.
A Chinese official said on Monday that China would operationalise its very own fourth generation aircraft in the next eight to 10 years. He Weiriong, deputy commander of the Chinese Air Force said the planes were already in development and would “match or exceed the capability of similar jets in existence today”.