The Pakistan Air Force officially inducted its first batch of Chinese-built J-10C fighter jets on Friday, holding a ceremony in Islamabad with officials from both countries. Several of the jets flew overhead as Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed the purchase, made for an undisclosed amount. Pakistan hasn’t said how many aircraft were bought in the deal, though authorities had earlier spoken of up to 25 jets. China is a longtime ally of Pakistan and has sold it military aircraft before.
The J-10C will significantly enhance the combat capabilities of the Pakistan Air Force. The J-10C is a 4.5-generation medium-size fighter jet and is more powerful than the China-Pakistan jointly developed lightweight fighter jet, the JF-17, which is currently in service with the Pakistan Air Force. The J-10C is larger and can be equipped with a bigger active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar than the one used by the JF-17 Block 3. The J-10C can also carry more advanced, fourth-generation air-to-air missiles including the short-range PL-10 and the beyond-visual-range PL-15.
The J-10C is also significantly more powerful than the old US-made F-16 fighter jet of the Pakistan Air Force and can rival the Rafale fighter jet that recently entered service with the Indian Air Force. Pakistan’s J-10C will not replace the JF-17, but form a combination, leading to higher combat capabilities.
In addition to the J-10C, Pakistan’s other military branches have also recently commissioned advanced Chinese equipment. For example, the navy received the first Type 054A/P frigate, and the army acquired the HQ-9/P air defense missile system. To China, the first successful sale of the J-10 series fighter and the WS-10 series engine will further open the international market and more countries will show serious interests in Chinese aviation equipment.
Pakistan’s procurement of the J-10C is also meaningful for China and Pakistan as a more powerful Pakistan military can better safeguard the shared interests of the two countries in the region.