India and China to join the exclusive club of countries combat aircraft manufacturers, the world witnessed their symbolic presence at Paris Air Show.
A collaboration between Beijing and Islamabad, the JF-17, a single-engine multi-role light aircraft was about to participate in presentations in the exhibition flying under the colors of the Pakistani Air Force. But its visit was canceled at the last minute.
No. 26 Squadron “Black Spiders” (black spiders) of the Pakistan Air Force, based in Peshawar, was equipped with the first fourteen operational copies of this unit.
But at Le Bourget Air Show, the presence of the JF-17 was eventually limited to a model presented at the stand of China along with those of a twin-engine drone and a clone of the famous American Predator.
Quoted by the website FlightGlobal, Ma Zhiping, president of CATIC, the China Aviation Technology Import-Export Corporation, attributed the absence of the JF-17 to political instability in Pakistan. But several African countries and the Middle East expressed their interest for this aircraft.
According to a Western expert interviewed on condition of anonymity, the JF-17 aircraft is a “rustic and relatively cheap, and successfully powered by a Russian Klimov RD-33 engine”. However, its performance would be lower than that of a Mirage 2000 aircraft designed in the 70s and entered service in 1984 in French Air Force.
Pakistan has attempted to contact two companies, the French Thales for radar, and the European MBDA for Mica missiles. But according to several experts, the French have opposed the sale, fearing a leak of sensitive technologies.
Especially since France is also vying to sell the Rafale from Dassault Aviation to India which would see a dim view of such assistance.