When 1965 war broke out between India and Pakistan, PAF was totally dependent on foreign sources where USA imposed a ban on supplying small parts even. On the other hand, India had an indigenously built fighter- Gnat in its inventory. Today, India could hardly step forward with Tejas- a Light Combat Aircraft- (LCA) which has been in the production and test and trial stages for long two decades. On the contrary, Pakistan already has commissioned its indigenously built multi role fighter jet- JF 17 Thunder which is a joint collaboration with its strategic ally China.
In recent development, Pakistan is not only producing JF 17s for its Air Force but also eying in exporting to number of countries. Being a relatively low cost multi role fighter jet, JF 17 Thunder is a highly maneuverable aircraft and seems lofty to the countries which can’t afford to procure pricy Western jets. According to reports surfaced in Daily Dawn, APP and Japanese strategic journal- The Diplomat, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex- PAC is going to close deals with Azerbaijan and Nigeria where a number of air forces are currently considering acquiring the JF-17, including Argentina, Bulgaria, the Philippines, Venezuela, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
The Diplomat even hinted that Bangladesh might opt for the Chinese variant of this aircraft.
Azerbaijan And Nigeria
Influential news daily The Dawn in its report on 9 January 2016 said that Azerbaijan and Nigeria showed their interests to procure JF 17 Thunder from Pakistan. Quoting the president of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain who visited Azerbaijan recently Dawn reported that Azerbaijan and Nigeria would soon become buyers of Pakistani defense products including JF 17 and Super Mashaq trainer jet. According to reports, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex- PAC which manufactures both JF 17 and Super Mashaq is near to close a deal with both the countries. Nigerian newspapers further reported that Nigeria would procure JF 17 within the current year.
Associate Press Of Pakistan- APP which is an official government news agency reported on 5 December 2015 that Egypt has shown its interest in purchasing of JF 17 Thunder jets from Pakistan. Citing Egyptian ambassador to Pakistan Sherif Shaheen, APP said, during a meeting with Pakistani Defense Production minister Rana Tanveer Hussain on 04 December 2015, Egyptian ambassador formally showed his country’s interest to procure JF 17s. During the meeting the Pakistani Defense Production Minister informed the Egyptian ambassador that, Pakistan was at present selling its traditional weapons to USA, UK , Germany and some Far Eastern countries. The minister offered the sale of JF-17 Thunder and Super Mashak to Egypt and said Iraq had already signed an agreement with Pakistan for the purchase of 20 Super Mashak while a deal with Turkey for the sale of 52 Super Mashak had almost been finalized.
He also emphasized the need for joint venture in defense production between the two countries.
Sri Lanka And Other Countries
There are conflicting reports about the procurement of JF 17 Thunder by Sri Lanka. Many of the leading newspapers, agencies around the world reported that during a three day state visit to Sri Lanka by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a landmark deal was sealed for the purchase of eight JF 17 Thunder combat aircraft though no delivery date for the first batch of aircraft to Sri Lanka has yet been announced. If it goes through then this defense deal would make Sri Lanka the first international buyer of the JF 17s.
According to Japanese Strategic Journal The Diplomat, though there is no official confirmation of the deal, Pakistan has sought deeper defense ties with Sri Lanka where selling of JF 17 has become a core issue between the two South Asian countries. Report suggests, the agreement over the procurement of the JF 17 Thunder is in progress despite fierce Indian opposition where New Delhi has been trying to sell its Tejas Light Combat Aircraft to Sri Lanka. But so far Sri Lankan defense officials were hesitant and, among other things, allegedly pointed out that the Tejas LCA is not even in service yet with the Indian Air Force (IAF).
In the meantime, number of media reported at the last week of January 2016 about the postponement of the deal. Though no clear cut information is provided but according to these report, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Defense, Karunasena Hettiarachchi, has denied that a deal was made. “The matter did not even come up for discussion during the talks [with the Pakistani government],” he said, according to the Colombo Gazette. Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Mahishini Colonne said that “if there arises a requirement for Sri Lanka to procure aircraft of this nature, in keeping with the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka to maintain transparency, expressions of interest will be called for, from all concerned.”
Experts assert that upon Indian pressure Sri Lanka might have backtracked from this deal with Pakistan. But they also hinted upon silent procurement at any stage.
[Source : APP, The Diplomat, Dawn, Colombo Gazette, Defence News]