Pakistan has agreed to a deal with China for 36 Chengdu J-10B fighters worth up to US$1.4bn (A$1.5bn).
The J-10, roughly the equivalent in performance and capabilities to late model F-16s, is entering service in large numbers in China, and Pakistan is known to have shown some interest in the aircraft for some time. The latest J-10B (pictured) has a reprofiled nose, modified chin air intake, and is believed to have a new electronic warfare self protection suite and other enhanced systems.
The aircraft is expected to be designated FC-20 in Pakistani service, with deliveries commencing from 2014.
Pakistan is already licence building the Chinese FC-1/JF-17 Thunder, with the first example to roll out within weeks, and has a large fleet of F-16s, with more now being delivered.
“The agreement should not simply be seen in the narrow context of Pakistan’s relations with China,” Abdul Qayyum, a retired Pakistani general was quoted as saying. “There is a wider dimension. By sharing its advanced technology with Pakistan, China is … also saying to the world that its defence capability is growing rapidly.”