By Moeed Pirzada
Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, Malaysian prime minister has taken keen interest in JF-17 fighter planes. After Pakistan Day Parade, in which he was national guest he took time to examine a JF-17 plane. Standing next to its cockpit he asked series of questions to PAF officers about fighter plane’s technical aspects, its agility and maneuverability.
This confirms the earlier assertion by Asad Umar, Pakistan’s Finance Minister, that Malaysia is interested in the JF-17 fighter planes and anti-tank missiles. Finance Minister was briefing media after the delegation level talks and told that JF-17 fighters will be showcased in the forthcoming Aviation Expo-Exhibition in Malaysia.
Umar had told the reporters that meeting stressed the fast implementation of the already signed agreement on Pakistan’s export of anti-tank missiles to Malaysia. Both countries have reached agreements on business deals and investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars in diverse fields. Similarly, both delegations also agreed to open branches of their banks in the two countries.
PM Khan and Dr. Mahathir also performed symbolic ground-breaking for the establishment of a Proton automotive assembly plant in Karachi in cooperation with Pakistan’s Al-Haj Group, under which cars and sport utility vehicles would be manufactured and its first car would hit the roads by June 2020.
Five memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for cooperation between the two countries’ private sector companies were also signed on the occasion on Friday. Three MoUs were signed between Malaysia’s Edotco Towers and Pakistan’s leading mobile companies Jazz, Telenor and Zong. CEO of Jazz, Amir Ibrahim also spoke on the occasion. Irfan Wahab, CEO Telenor and xyzzy, CEO Zong were also present on the occasion.
Reportedly Pakistan Board of Investment (BOI) headed by its Chairman, Haroon Sharif, has played an important role in facilitating these potential investments. The deal between Edotco Towers and Jazz was almost scrapped before the July elections for security reasons. Edotco, Malaysian telecom company, provides towers and related services to cellular companies and the deal now taking place between Edotco and three Pakistani companies is a new fresh initiative different from the one that was scrapped by August 2018 and Board of Investment has played an important role in facilitating this.
Significance of potential JF-17 Fighter Sale
The PAC JF-17 Thunder is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. Its designation “JF-17” by Pakistan is short for “Joint Fighter-17”, while the designation and name “FC-1 Xiaolong” by China means “Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon”.
The JF-17 can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel auto-cannon. Fighter plane has a top speed of Mach 1.8. The JF-17 is fast becoming the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), complementing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the cost. Earlier planes were manufactured at the cost of around $25 million a unit, newer blocs with latest avionics may be manufactured at around $40 million a unit. New F-16s may cost over $100 million a unit.
Since its induction in 2011, the JF-17 Thunder has accumulated more than 20,000 hours of operational flight and has been seeing active military deployment. It was first used by the Pakistan Air Force to bomb militant positions in the War in North-West Pakistan, using both unguided munitions and guided missiles for precision strike capability. On 27th Feb, 2019 JF-17 planes were actively engaged in dog fight with India when two Indian planes (MIG 21 & SU-30) were shot down inside Pakistani airspace. Though Indian Air-force (IAF) insists that their planes were hit by missiles that could only be fired from F-16 planes.
Myanmar and Nigeria are already purchasing JF-17 planes and a potential deal with Malaysia will be significant. These fighter planes offer most advanced features of latest avionics at comparably much less cost. However Malaysia placing orders for Pakistani JF-17 planes will be a huge strategic affront to India. Reportedly Indian government had sent high level delegates to Malaysia to dissuade Dr. Mahathir Mohammad from his visit to Pakistan and his appearance at Pakistan Day parade, given India’s position post-Pulwama. However Dr. Mahathir Mohammad politely turned down Indian protests.