Haroon Habib

DHAKA: The Khaleda Zia Government has decided to buy 16 fighter planes from China, a close ally, as part of strengthening the country's air power. The Minister-in-charge for Defence in Parliament, Major (Retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, told Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament) on Wednesday that "an agreement was signed with China last [fiscal] year, to procure 16 fighter planes for Bangladesh Air Force."

According to the agreement, each plane will cost $5.85 millions. Mr. Hafiz, also Water Resources Minister, said purchase of fighter planes for the air force was a continual process. He, however, did not give details of the type of planes being bought. China is Bangladesh's largest supplier of military hardware.

Defence analysts see the purchase of the 16 aircraft for $94 million as part of Dhaka's programme to modernise the air force. A defence expert said the country's air force has now 65 fighter planes and 39 helicopters.