NEW DELHI - Pakistan has produced the JF-17 fighter since 2007, with Russia providing high quality engines. In March, Chinese media reported the JF-17 will be upgraded with active array radar, allowing it to detect and fire on targets from a greater distance.
According to Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Russia’s potential approval for China to resell its jet engines to Pakistan was the most frequent topic of discussion at weekly meetings of the National Security Council when she was assistant secretary to the NSC Secretariat from 2003-2007.
If Pakistan’s jets were equipped with the new radar and China’s PL-10 missiles, now available for export, India’s aging Russian MiGs would struggle to compete, she said, Hindustan Times has reported.
The arms sales are symptomatic of a much more worrying regional realignment of Russia – traditionally India’s biggest arms supplier – with China, said Rajagopalan, now head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank.
“The Russians are in a weak position now, and they feel it is better to be in the Chinese camp,” she said.
India last month put out an international call for bids for a $15 billion contract to provide 110 new combat aircraft. Pakistan has over 100 JF-17s and is producing 25 new ones a year, in next few years the number may touch 250-300.
Beijing’s technological progress is also having knock-on effects beyond South Asia. China has moved from its traditional position as a provider of cheap small arms to poor nations, to become the world’s number three arms trader in volume terms. That includes the sale of armed drones to Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other nations to which the US declined to sell its Reaper drone technology.
Some missiles China developed with Russian help are now considered as good if not better than the originals, and are on the international market.
Russia, at least, isn’t overly concerned by competition from the expanding military capabilities next door, according to Kashin. “They are certainly a growing power,” he said of China. “But they are not omnipotent, and they are Russia’s partner.”