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Pakistan to Operate J-10s?

A Response to Rafale

Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, has suggested that his country’s air force will soon be operating Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) J-10 multirole fighter aircraft acquired from China.

Speaking about preparations to commemorate Pakistan Day on 23 March, the minister said at a 29 December event in Rawalpindi that, “For the first time, the Pakistan Air Force [PAF] will introduce JS-10 [J-10C] fighter jets during the fly-past in collaboration with China [adding that] these fighter airplanes are an answer” to the French-built Rafale fighters currently being acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

While there had been media reports about Islamabad’s interest in the single-engined Chinese fighter, Ahmed’s remarks are the first by a high-ranking Pakistani official pointing to PAF plans to field at least one squadron of J-10Cs over the coming months.

No further details were provided, and the information has yet to be confirmed by other official sources in either Pakistan or China. However, if the statement is accurate, then the PAF’s J-10Cs are likely to be equipped with Shenyang-Liming WS10 Taihang-series engines. In China, the locally-made WS-10s have replaced the Russian-made Saturn AL-31FN turbofan engines that have powered the initial batches of J-10s in PLAAF service.

If the minister’s remarks are correct, then this means that Islamabad placed an order for J-10s several years ago, as it would take time to not only build the platforms but also train the pilots.

The PAF, which already operates US-made F-16 multirole fighters as well as Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC)/ Pakistan Aeronautical Complex FC-1/JF-17 light fighter aircraft, is aiming to further bolster its aerial capabilities to counter the IAF’s two Rafale squadrons (totalling 36 aircraft), the first of which is already operational.

A screengrab from November broadcast footage of PLAAF J-10s. (Image: China Central Television)

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