The Pakistan Air Force on Friday inducted into service the Chinese-built J-10C fighter.
The J-10C is an export variant of the J-10 fighter, which is operated by China.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was the chief guest at the inauguration ceremony at the PAF base at Kamra. PTV News, Pakistan’s state-owned broadcaster, also shared a video that featured five J-10C jets in flight and on the tarmac.
At the induction ceremony, the Pakistan Air Force described the J-10C as the ‘Dragon from the East’. The Pakistan Air Force claimed it signed an agreement with China to buy the J-10C in June last year. It claimed the aircraft was “omni-role” and had “matchless manoeuvrability” and advanced electronics and weapons. Omni-role is a term used by Dassault to describe the Rafale.
While claims of Pakistan buying the J-10 or a variant of the fighter have circulated for over a decade, an acquisition was only confirmed late last year. In late December, Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed had announced the PAF would be inducting 25 J-10C fighters. He described the acquisition as a response to India's induction of the Rafale jets. Rasheed had said the full fleet of 25 J-10C jets would fly at the military parade during Pakistan Day on March 23.
The J-10C is the first new aircraft inducted into the Pakistan Air Force since it began taking delivery of the JF-17, which was also developed by China.
The J-10C is significantly larger and can carry a heavier payload of weapons and fuel than the JF-17. The video shared by PTV News showed the aircraft received by Pakistan were equipped with an infrared search-and-track (IRST) system on the nose. IRST can detect aircraft or missiles by their heat signature. IRST, unlike radars, don't give away the host jet's position and thus increases its survivability.
The J-10C is the first aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force with an IRST, offering Pakistan a capability India has had for decades, courtesy the MiG-29, Su-30 and Rafale.
According to reports, China may also supply Pakistan the very-long-range PL-15 air-to-air missiles for the J-10C. The PL-15 is believed to have the capability to hit targets around 200km away.
A Chinese expert told Global Times in February “The J-10C is also significantly more powerful than the old US-made F-16 fighter jet of the Pakistan Air Force and can rival the Rafale fighter jet that recently entered service with the Indian Air Force.”