• PAF ‘recently-unveiled’ transformative modernization initiative envisages acquisition of fifth-generation stealth fighter jets
  • Air Chief Marshal had hinted at purchase of stealth jets at induction ceremony for new equipment on January 2

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan recently announced a plan to procure FC-31 stealth fighter jets from China to enhance the Pakistan Air Force’s capabilities, a move experts said will open up the international market for the Chinese aircraft, according to a Global Times report on Wednesday.

According to the report, the Pakistan Air Force introduced its transformative modernization initiative in a press release posted on its social media platforms on Tuesday.

A key milestone in this strategic transformation has been the acquisition of fifth-generation stealth fighter jets, the foundation of whose induction into the Pakistan Air Force has already been laid, the Pakistan Air Force said.

According to a video attached with the press release, the fifth-generation stealth fighter jet to be inducted is China’s FC-31.

This confirmed media reports earlier this month that Pakistan is seeking to purchase the FC-31.

Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu said at an induction ceremony for new equipment on January 2 that the FC-31 would enter service in the near future, US media outlet Defense News reported.

Independently developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the FC-31 is a single-seat, twin-engine, medium stealth fighter jet that analysts said is comparable with, if not superior to, the US’ F-35.

The FC-31 has strong comprehensive air combat capabilities, including its stealth advantages that allow it to spot opponents first and launch surprises attacks, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The aircraft has outstanding situational awareness and can carry a wide selection of munitions, including not only air-to-air missiles, but also precision bombs as well as air-to-ground and air-to-surface missiles, Wei said.

The Pakistan Air Force has long been using weapons and equipment procured from China, including J-10C medium fighter jets, JF-17 light fighter jets, HQ-9BE long-range surface-to-air missile systems, HQ-16FE mid-to-long-range surface-to-air missile systems and the YLC-8E anti-stealth 3D surveillance radar systems, according to the video it published.

Pakistan will have no difficulties integrating the FC-31 into its combat systems, and the stealth aircraft will in return significantly enhance its military capabilities by a generation, experts said.

The FC-31 will allow the Pakistan Air Force to enjoy a generational gap over its rivals with fast delivery, while Pakistan’s main rival will not likely get stealth fighter jets anytime soon, Wei said.

The purchase plan will also benefit China, Wei said, noting that if Pakistan finalizes the deal, other countries, particularly those from the Middle East, could also follow.

In potential joint exercises with other countries, the Pakistan Air Force could display the capabilities of the FC-31, and more potential customers will get to know how competitive the Chinese aircraft is, Wei said.

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