Pak­istan in talks with Malaysia for sale of JF-17 Thun­der air­craft

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The Malaysian gov­ern­ment is in pre­lim­i­nary talks with Pak­istan for the ex­port of JF-17 Thun­der fighter air­craft, re­ported Janes.

The dis­clo­sure was made by an of­fi­cial from Pak­istan Aero­nau­ti­cal Com­plex on the side­lines of the De­fense Ser­vices Asia 2018 ex­hi­bi­tion in Kuala Lumpur. Ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish pub­li­ca­tion, the gov­ern­ments of the two coun­tries were en­gaged in “pri­mary level talks” about the sale of the fighter jets.

The air­craft is ex­pected to cater to the com­bat re­quire­ments of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

“We are aware of the po­ten­tial re­quire­ments in Malaysia for cost­ef­fec­tive fighter air­craft,” the of­fi­cial was quoted as say­ing. “There have been no se­ri­ous talks but through gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment chan­nels, there have been what we can de­scribe as pri­mary level talks about the JF-17 pro­gramme.”

The Bri­tish pub­li­ca­tion also re­vealed that Pak­istan had ex­pressed will­ing­ness to en­ter into a pos­si­ble deal with the lo­cal in­dus­try in Malaysia to fa­cil­i­tate lo­calised man­u­fac­tur­ing, as well as main­te­nance, re­pair and over­haul.

“Of course, the in­dus­trial en­gage­ment would de­pend on the sale of the Malaysian re­quire­ment,” the of­fi­cial told Janes.

In 2015, the same news agency re­ported that a high rank­ing Malaysian of­fi­cial had con­firmed that the coun­try was con­sid­er­ing the pur­chase of JF-17 jets from Pak­istan, but Kuala Lumpur had swiftly de­nied the re­port the fol­low­ing day.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force has been look­ing to pro­cure a twin-en­gine com­bat air­craft for more than a decade, but a lack of funds has ham­pered the search.

The Diplo­mat re­ported that the Malaysian forces in­tended to pur­chase 18 new fighter jets to re­place its ex­ist­ing fleet of Mig-29 air­craft.

The pro­cure­ment was ex­pected to sup­port the fleet of F/A-18D and Su-30MKM fighter jets al­ready in ser­vice with the air force. How­ever, bud­getary con­straints in 2017 put a damper on their ef­forts.

Ac­cord­ing to the Tokyo-based mag­a­zine, Swe­den, China and Rus­sia are also in­ter­ested in sell­ing air­craft to Kuala Lumpur, but the Pak­istani JF-17 Thun­der is the cheap­est op­tion for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

The pro­duc­tion of the JF-17 has been split up into three blocks: Block I, Block II, and Block III. Malaysia would re­ceive the Block III vari­ant of the air­craft with pro­duc­tion slated to kick off in 2019. (50 Block I and 50 Block II air­craft have been pro­duced so far with 12 more of the lat­ter to be rolled out in 2018.)

“Pow­ered by a Rus­sian de­signed but Chi­nese li­cense­built Klimov RD-93 (an RD-33 de­riv­a­tive) tur­bo­fan en­gine, [the JF-17] can re­port­edly reach a top speed of up to Mach 1.6 and has an op­er­a­tional range of up to 1,200 kilo­me­tres with­out re­fu­elling,” the au­thor of the re­port in The Diplo­mat un­der­lined.

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