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Pakistan Reportedly Closes JF-17 Sale to Sri Lanka; What to Expect Next
October 17, 2017

Pakistan Reportedly Closes JF-17 Sale to Sri Lanka; What to Expect Next

06 January 2016

By Bilal Khan

According to numerous Pakistani and Sri Lankan media reports, Pakistan reportedly closed the sale of eight JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft to Sri Lanka yesterday. This marks the second finalized overseas JF-17 sale for Pakistan, the first likely being Myanmar (IHS Jane’s 360).

Following up on the Quwa article published on Monday, it will be worth studying what the newly gained commercial momentum of the JF-17 may mean for Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), the main vendor involved at this time in the fighter’s production. While the PAC is not a stranger to selling aircraft (given that it has several MFI-17 Mushshak and Super Mushshak customers), the sale of multimillion-dollar fighter aircraft is a new and much more complex (and potentially lucrative) domain.

It is important to understand that the sale is only the first step; a series of other and arguably more complex elements are sure to follow. For example, in the lead-up of transferring the actual fighter aircraft, PAC will need to ensure that the requisite trained personnel as well as maintenance infrastructure are in place with the receiving air forces. Moreover, there is the question of whether PAC will station personnel overseas in order to see these projects through, and what that means for the price of the aircraft, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) personnel (especially engineers and technicians), and the actual host nations themselves.

The aforementioned questions will have likely been dealt with during the negotiation stages, but it will be interesting to see how they pan out in practice. From the onset however, it should be noted that the sale of the JF-17 to these countries is not coloured with foreign policy interests, contrary to what one might like to believe. One should acknowledge that a major selling point of the JF-17 is the fact that it does not come with invasive political strings; it is unreasonable to expect Pakistan (with limited economic might and a relatively passive foreign policy drive) to somehow attach and succeed with such conditions in place.

A JF-17 Block-2 unit, fresh off of the production line.

A JF-17 Block-2 unit, fresh off of the production line.

In terms of the technical elements, it will be very interesting to see how the PAF and PAC manage these accounts. For example, could these sales mark the beginning for a stronger cadre of civilian professionals to steward the technical and commercial elements overseas? In the end, it may be more prudent to have a permanent professional body to deal with such matters, as opposed to rotating serving officers and technicians. The PAF has its own pressing operational needs, so it may be prudent to strongly demarcate between commercial and operational realms. Trying to relay personnel and expectations between the two could lead to unnecessary inefficiencies in both areas.

The commercial opportunities in fighter sales do not stop with the transfer of aircraft, but can continue through the supply of spare parts, engine overhaul, structural restoration and upgrades. In that respect, PAC has not just secured for itself work for the next several years, but accounts that will last for at least a couple of decades. Moreover, how these air forces fare with operating the JF-17 will also have an impact on the fighter’s perception, especially from a durability and reliability standpoint. This is not to take away from the intensive use the fighter should see at the hands of the PAF, but ensuring that best practices are applied elsewhere may be important if PAC intends to secure new (and bigger) clients, such as Egypt.

In regards to the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), the JF-17 purchase is interesting. It is unclear exactly what variant of the JF-17 the SLAF is procuring, but if it is the Block-II, then it should at least benefit from the added essentials, e.g. improved oxygen system potentially alongside the enhanced ECM [electronics countermeasures] and radar. In terms of munitions, the SLAF should have access to the full gamut of Chinese air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions cleared for export by Beijing.

A number of the munitions on offer with the JF-17. From left to right: C-802 AShM, LS-6 (and LS-3 behind it) INS/GPS PGB, SD-10A BVRAAM.

A number of the munitions on offer with the JF-17. From left to right: C-802 AShM, LS-6 (and LS-3 behind it) INS/GPS PGB, SD-10A BVRAAM.

In terms of air-to-air munitions, the SLAF could potentially acquire the SD-10 beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM). The SD-10 is an active radar-guided missile capable of data-link midcourse guidance, it has a range of at least 70km (Strategy Center). This can be paired with the PL-5EII within visual range air-to-air missile (WVRAAM), which CATIC markets as an “improved 3rd generation short-range [infrared] air-to-air missile, which features good anti-jamming capability and all-aspect attack capability.”

On the air-to-ground front, the options on offer are no less interesting. For example, the SLAF could acquire the LT-2 laser-guided bomb (LGB) and LS-3 as well as LS-6 (250kg and 500kg, respectively) INS/GPS precision-guided bombs (PGB), which could give it Paveway II and JDAM-like capability. In terms of stand-off weapons, the SLAF could acquire the C-802 and CM-400AKG anti-ship missiles, the 500kg GB6 (which is similar in concept to the AGM-154 JSOW), and CM-102 anti-radiation missile.

Based on the reports thus far, it seems the present sale of eight aircraft is an initial order, it is possible (if not likely) that the SLAF will acquire more JF-17s in the coming years. It will also be interesting to see if the SLAF will get Israeli firms such as Elbit and Rafael involved to customize the JF-17 in terms of its onboard electronics suite and/or electronics warfare as well as armaments.

  • Catalyst

    Good analysis. However, I would emphasize on the geo-political aspect of this sale. Sri Lanka could see that it would have to choose a side between Pak-China & India due to its strategic location, sooner or later. I believe they have calculated their options and made a decision in the light of those calculations. India has a shady past in Sri Lanka, while Pakistan & China have been more supportive of Sri Lanka, with clear and visible intentions of friendship in future. So this sale is indeed a defining moment in future of Sri Lanka’s role in geo-politics as well.
    On a side note, I am still waiting for an official word on the sale of JF-17, as media reports can be dubious and no official has yet endorsed the agreement in public. Lets hope we hear the official word soon Inshallah.

    • sajid ali

      Srilankans have already chosen China and Pakistan as there allies. Chinese are already building port and infrastructure there whereas Pakistan will jump in with this deal.

      • MT

        Ha.Ha..Its kind of silly to imagine all of it in your mind
        Ground reality
        =>
        Distance from Lanka to China 3000 Km Pakistan 2000 Km, India 10 KM
        India Lanka trade 4 bill$ India FDI in Lanka: 2 bil$

        Pak Lanka trade 400 mill$ FDI: 0 $

        Pak aid to lanka: 0 $ India aid to lanka : 400 mill$

        Think before you decide whom they will choose

        • jigsaww

          And you just couldn’t hide your heartburn i suppose.
          Tell me, do you feel better now?
          So greattttt…INDIA TO LANKA AID.
          you want me to tell you something about indian aid?

          You indians are REAL LOSERS. TAKE IT FOR A FACT.

          • MT

            Sri Lanka Air Force today said they were unaware of an agreement signed with Pakistan to purchase eight JF-17 fighter jets.

            When contacted by the Daily Mirror, Air Force Group Captain Chandima Alwis said they were not informed of the government’s decision to sign such an agreement.

            “From the side of the Air Force Head Quarters, we have not decided as yet. I have not been informed of the matter. It may have been something which took place during government level discussions. I don’t have any information on the matter and cannot confirm it,” he said.

          • jigsaww

            Then wait until you have a formal announcement.
            You have started to throw up too early.

          • MT

            Lets hope that chinese fighter get some order—Pakistani get to tighten the screws!

          • jigsaww

            Yar every time you speak, you strengthen my belief in you indians being whiners and losers.
            you are a muslim but you speak like a coward really.

    • MT

      Distance from Lanka to China 3000 Km Pakistan 2000 Km, India 10 KM
      India Lanka trade 4 bill$ India FDI in Lanka: 2 bil$

      Pak Lanka trade 400 mill$ FDI: 0 $

      Pak aid to lanka: 0 $ India aid to lanka : 400 mill$

      Think before you decide whom they will choose

      • sajid ali

        There was no need to explain all this if you were really that close. And of 4bn $ u only import tobacco or coconut oil 😉 while we will export them Fighter Jets!

        • MT

          SLAF unaware of agreement to purchase jets from Pakistan
          2016-01-06 13:28:00

          Sri Lanka Air Force today said they were unaware of an agreement signed with Pakistan to purchase eight JF-17 fighter jets.

          When contacted by the Daily Mirror, Air Force Group Captain Chandima Alwis said they were not informed of the government’s decision to sign such an agreement.

          “From the side of the Air Force Head Quarters, we have not decided as yet. I have not been informed of the matter. It may have been something which took place during government level discussions. I don’t have any information on the matter and cannot confirm it,” he said.

          • Muhammad Shahid

            Ohh. So, if india have such upper hand on SL..!!!
            Why don’t indian govt convince SLAF or SL govt to buy your Tejas rather than JF17?
            Is there any pressure on SL govt to make this JF17 procurement announcement?
            Why SL govt singed this agreement despite indian bullish behavior?
            Are you in some sort of serious pain due to this agreement?
            How we can help you?

      • Vik

        I think India trying to build it’s first jet Teeja since 1986 and could not success even with the help.of Russia, Israel and don’t know if more countries…better focus on that and offer this for sale when u have something

  • jigsaww

    Indians must be feeling like…

  • jigsaww

    What i take away from this news is…
    -PAC has done a brilliant marketing campaign and succeeded in creating a sellable product and first fighter jet in south asia

    -india completely failed to leverage its “BIG”influence on sri lanka to turn down this deal
    -srilankans made a wise decision in better interest of SLAF and on its definite recommendations
    -despite JF-17 coming with no political strings, true, it will definitely strengthen the geopolitical alliance between pakistan and sri lanka and give pakistan better influence in the region. That’s another thing that pakistan, unlike india, does not and will not employ extortion tactics ever on any nation including srilanka and that is what creates true relationships.

  • Abdul Rashid

    Bilal, can you write some articles on Pakistan’s development of the Al-Khalid tank, with specific regard to the Al-Khalid II? There seems to be a dirth of information on Pakistan’s tank developments. Perhaps a an article on the possibility of procurement/manufacture of the new Chines VT-4 MBT as Al-Haider.
    Sorry for posting this on a JF-17 article. I do not see any MBT tanks on the site!

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