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France Backs Away From The Chinese Threat
by James Dunnigan
April 21, 2010

Pressure from India and the United States has apparently convinced France to not supply Pakistan with advanced radars and other electronics for the Pakistani built JF-17 jet fighter. India didn't want potential battlefield opponent Pakistan to get all these high end electronics for their new fighter. The U.S. apparently convinced France that Pakistani ally China would get access to whatever technology secrets the French equipment contained, would copy that tech, and use it for its own weapons, and export it as well.

This was not a hard case to make. China did most of the development on the JF-17, and Chinese personnel would be involved in any effort to install French electronics in these aircraft. China has a well deserved reputation for stealing foreign technology, and putting high tech French electronics into Pakistani JF-17s, is seen as just giving the stuff to China. Pakistan also has a reputation for passing on military technology it had promised to hold close.

The French are not ready to give up the deal, worth over $8 billion. But they will not proceed unless Pakistan is able to offer terms that protect French tech secrets. Given the extent of corruption in Pakistan, that's going to be difficult.

While the Chinese steal a lot of technical information via Internet espionage, that's not as good as getting your hands on the actual hardware. Meanwhile, Pakistan wants to upgrade up to a hundred of its JF-17s this way, many of them for export. But France cannot just blow off Indian protests, as India is a much larger customer for French military equipment than Pakistan.

The JF-17 recently entered service in Pakistan. A year ago, Pakistan signed a deal to buy the next 42, of 300, JF-17s  from China. These 42 will cost $14.3 million per aircraft. The final 250 will cost $12 million each. The aircraft is assembled in both Pakistan and China, with the engines coming from Russia, and most of the other components from China (which calls the aircraft the FC-1). Several countries ordered the aircraft, or are negotiating to. Pakistan will replace its MiG-21s and Mirage IIIs with the low cost JF-17s.

When the first JF-17 fighter arrived in Pakistan three years ago, it ended over twenty years of development for what was first called the Super 7 fighter. The JF-17 was developed by China in cooperation with Pakistan, which originally only wanted to buy 150 of them. All this came about because Pakistan could not get modern fighters from anyone else, and turned to China. At the time, China had nothing comparable to the early model F-16s Pakistan already had.

The 13 ton JF-17 is meant to be a low cost 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 F16 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.

The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of nearly 2,000 kilometers an hour, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 17,700 meters (55,000 feet). China has not yet decided on whether it will use the FC-1/JF-17 itself. This is apparently because China believes its own J-10 (another local design) and J-11 (a license built Russian Su-27) are adequate for their needs. The J-10, like the JF-17, did not work out as well as was hoped. China is still relatively new to aircraft design and development. To further complicate things, China is trying to keep up with aircraft technology that continues to advance, year by year. Thus both the J-10 and JF-17s are difficult and expensive to maintain, and do not function as effectively as the designers hoped. But both aircraft work, and can probably be more useful for ground support, than air superiority. Pakistan hopes to make the JF-17 more lethal by using more experienced pilots. That often works.

 

 


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