Pakistani test pilots flew the joint Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 fighter. The aircraft first flew last September and is to enter mass production in two years, with another 16 JF-17s being built in the meantime for testing purposes. The JF-17 project has been going on since 1992 and has cost over half a billion dollars. Most of the money has come from China. The project has gone through several name changes (FC-1, Super 7). The 13 ton warplane is meant to be a low cost ($20 million) alternative to the American F-16. The JF-17 is considered the equal to earlier versions of the F-16, but only 80 percent as effective as more recent F-16 models. The JF-17 uses the same Russian engine, the RD-93, that is used in the MiG-29. The JF-17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG-33. Most of the JF-17 electronics are Western, with Italian firms being major suppliers. The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of Mach 1.6, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 55,000 feet.
China and Pakistan have been allies since the 1950s and Pakistan has bought much of its military equipment from China.