Procurement: Leaving Russian Warplanes Behind


April 1, 2024: Countries that traditionally obtained their combat aircraft Russia are looking for new suppliers of more effective aircraft. One example is Azerbaijan, which is buying JF-17Cs fr0m Pakistan. This latest version has superior electronics including a jam-resistant KLJ-7A active electronically scanned array radar that can use China's PL-15E air-to-air missile. This means Pakistan can offer the relatively inexpensive JF-17C to nations facing potential opponents who use Russian MiG-29s and various models of the Su-30.

Currently Pakistan has 152 JF-17s in service, as well as 75 F-16s, 179 French Mirage fighters and 50 elderly Chinese F-7PGs. The F-7s are Chinese versions of the obsolete MiG-21 but with substantial upgrades. Pakistan is retiring the F-7PGs as more JF-17s enter squadron service. Each squadron needs twenty JF-17s with trained pilots and maintainers as well as squadron command and staff officers. That takes time to organize.

Pakistan began receiving its F-16s in 1982, but most deliveries took place after 2001 because Pakistan had refused to halt its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. Pakistan finally detonated several of its nuclear weapons in 1998 to confirm they had nuclear weapons. American sanctions were less effective after 2002 because of the new war in Afghanistan. For that war the United States needed cooperation from Pakistan and, to obtain it, Pakistan received the F-16s that had not been delivered in the 1980s.

Pakistan wanted to produce its own jet fighters and China, the major weapons supplier for Pakistan, offered to help. The result was the JF-17, which was assembled in Pakistan using many key parts manufactured in China. That was enough for Pakistan to declare the JF-17 a locally produced fighter.

Pakistan now plans to keep its JF-17s flying until the new Turkish TF-X Kaan jet fighter is available. TF-X made its first flight in February 2024. The TF-X Kaan is a 27 ton twin-engine fighter optimized to achieve air superiority. The first models won’t be equipped to carry bombs or missiles for ground attack missions. The Turkish plan is to have Kaan ready by the early 2030s. Once mass production begins, Turkey plans to produce 250 of these aircraft over an eleven year period. A major reason for the Turks spending a lot of money, time, and effort to build their own jet fighters was because of the problems they have caused and had in procuring American jets because those come with pesky conditions. Turkey also hopes to sell its TF-X, an aircraft produced by a Moslem country, to other Moslem nations like Pakistan. To do that Turkey is willing to allow Pakistan to produce some TF-X components and perhaps even assemble TF-X fighters in Pakistan for use by Pakistan. Such co-production deals are common, especially when selling new aircraft to countries that have the industrial capacity to handle co-production.

With fighters like the JF-17 and TF-X, there isn’t much of a market for Russian made jet fighters anymore. This is especially true as F-16s are also being sold to countries, like Ukraine, that have long used Russian-designed aircraft. Before 1991, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, they used to produce components for many Soviet and now Russian aircraft. Now Ukraine wants to co-produce F-16s and its successor the F-35. Once the war is over Ukraine probably could get a deal to produce components for these two aircraft.




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