Some media outlets reported last week that the first batch of a new type of fighter aircraft, the J-10C, had arrived in Pakistan. Designed and built in China, the J-10C is a single-engine aircraft similar in size and capability to the US F-16.
According to reports, Pakistan will get 25 J-10C fighters from China and the aircraft will fly in a military parade on Pakistan Day (March 23). The J-10C is an export variant of the Chinese J-10 fighter.
Rumours and occasional reports of a purchase of the J-10 by Pakistan had surfaced repeatedly for over a decade. However, in late December last year, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed became the first senior Pakistani official to confirm the purchase of the J-10C. At the time, Rasheed had told mediapersons Pakistan was buying the J-10C to counter India's acquisition of the Rafale fighters from France.
But Pakistan is looking beyond the J-10C. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Rasheed confirmed that the J-10C jets had arrived in Pakistan and would fly at the March 23 parade. “We have the J-10C... God willing, a time will come... I am not sure when, the J-20C will also come to Pakistan, which will be the most modern aircraft in the world..."
Rasheed did not give more details. He appeared to be referring to a variant of China's J-20 stealth fighter. The J-20 first flew in 2011 and is the only stealth fighter in service with China's air force. Over the past decade, there have been claims Pakistan could be a prospective buyer of the J-31 stealth fighter that is being developed by China. The J-20 is larger in size and is believed to have greater range and weapons carriage capability than the J-31 fighter, which is yet to enter service.
The J-20 is considered a long-range aircraft capable of both destroying enemy aircraft and attacking targets on the surface.
Given Pakistan's perilous financial situation, it is unclear how the country can afford stealth aircraft. Interestingly, the claims by Rasheed came weeks after Pakistani and Turkish officials had hinted the two countries were cooperating on development of a stealth fighter.