Cash problems put Chengdu FC-1 in holding pattern

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China's Chengdu FC-1 lightweight fighter project is on hold until at least 1998, because of a shortage of funding and continuing Chinese and Pakistani air force wavering on support for the programme.

The Pakistani air force has made procurement of the single-engine FC-1 fighter contingent on the Chinese military also committing to the programme. The Chinese air force is considering purchasing several hundred of the aircraft, but has made no firm decision to date, say industry sources.

Pakistan has a clear requirement for the single-seat fighter in the wake of the US embargo on further deliveries of Lockheed Martin F-16s, and its inability to afford a Dassault Mirage 2000-5 purchase. Chengdu Aircraft is also keen to press ahead with the programme to secure urgently needed export orders and supplant dwindling production of the F-7 fighter.

A joint committee, consisting of Pakistan and CATIC, China's aviation export-import corporation, continues to meet to discuss selection of a radar and avionics suite for the fighter. To secure more funding, the Sino-Pakistani team are asking potential suppliers to become risk- and revenue-sharing partners in the FC-1 project.

Three European suppliers are pitching for the contract, which includes supply of the fighter's radar, head-up and head-down displays, mission computer, inertial- navigation system, databus and communications equipment. GEC-Marconi is offering a system based on the Blue Hawk radar, Alenia is offering the open-architecture Grifo S7 radar. and Thomson-CSF/Sagem is proposing a solution based on the RC-400 radar.

Alenia, in the meantime, says that flight testing of the Grifo 7-equipped upgraded F-7P for Pakistan is near to completion.