Dragon from the East
On March 11, Pakistan formally commissioned a first batch of six Chinese J-10C fighter aircraft into its air force. A special ceremony, with Prime Minister Imran Khan and heads of the country’s armed forces in attendance, was held at Kamra Air Base. The official commissioning of the J-10C into the PAF is being seen as yet another major milestone, as it marked the systematised organic export of China’s advanced aviation equipment to Pakistan. It is to be mentioned here that Pakistan is the first confirmed export customer of the J-10C, and these aircraft are likely an export derivative of the J-10C currently in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
In his address to the ceremony, PM Khan said the nation has full confidence that the armed forces are capable of defending the country. He, while referring to Pakistan’s response to Balakot intrusion, added that anyone who tries to cast an evil eye on the country now must be prepared to suffer the consequences. He thanked China for delivering the jets to Pakistan in a short period of eight months. He expressed his satisfaction over PAF fully equipping itself on the lines of modern and indigenous technology.
The prime minister also acknowledged and appreciated the No. 15 Squadron of the PAF for expediting the induction of the J-10C aircraft in record time. He congratulated the nation on the induction of the new multi-role fighter aircraft. “When F-16s were inducted 40 years ago, the whole nation was jubilant and now that time has come again as Pakistan is strengthening itself. There was an attempt to create an imbalance in the region; however, the induction of the fighter aircraft has again created an equilibrium,” he said.
Air force chief Air Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sadhu described the induction of J-10C jets as a historic moment in the history of Pakistan. “Today, after a gap of almost four decades, the PAF is inducting a next generation combat system,” Baber said. “The last such event was in 1982 when F-16 aircraft joined the Pakistani fleet,” he added, referring to a US-built aircraft.
A PAF commentary during a nationally televised induction event called the Chinese jet the “Dragon from the East,” saying the “omni-role” aircraft is armed with advanced electronic weapons.
Developed by China’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the J-10C is an all-weather, single-engine, single-seat, multi-role, fourth-plus generation fighter jet. It is a 4.5-generation, medium-sized fighter jet and is more powerful than the China-Pakistan jointly developed lightweight fighter jet, the JF-17. It is capable of striking multiple targets from beyond visual range under complex electromagnetic environment, and can deliver precision attacks on ground targets with multiple guidance modes.
The J-10C can be equipped with a bigger active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar than the one used by the JF-17 Block 3.
The aircraft can carry more advanced, fourth-generation air-to-air missiles, including the short-range PL-10 and the beyond-visual-range PL-15.
Also known as Vigorous Dragon, according to the AVIC, the J-10C is also significantly more powerful than the old US-made F-16 fighter jet of PAF and can rival the Rafale fighter jet that recently entered service with the Indian Air Force.