China's AVIC steps up sales push for FC-1, J-10 fighters

Singapore
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China plans to market the Chengdu FC-1/JF-17 and J-10 fighters aggressively as part of its plan to become a major player in the global aerospace industry.

"While AVIC's main job is to manufacture aircraft, the company also fulfils a national agenda by producing military aircraft for China's political allies around the world," says a source close to Chengdu's state-owned parent company. "There are also countries that would like to buy a good fighter, but not at the cost of a Western fighter.

"While China's military aircraft have been exported for many years, this is the first time that there is a concerted effort to properly market them and establish a support network," the source adds.

In the past few months, senior company officials have been identifying the military products that will be given the most attention for the export market. In the fighter segment, the JF-17 and the J-10 are the two most important aircraft, says the source.

"Given that the JF-17 has been in service in China and Pakistan for a number of years and is a mature programme, it is being given first priority," the source adds.

Islamabad, which helped to develop the JF-17, has committed to buying 150 aircraft produced by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. This figure could rise to 300 aircraft to replace the country's air force fleets of Nanchang A-5s, Chengdu F-7s and Dassault Mirage III and Mirage Vs.

The JF-17 will be able to carry a variety of conventional and precision-guided bombs, and air-to-air and air-to-sea missiles from short- to beyond-visual-range. The type is already being marketed to countries in Africa, the Middle East, South America and South-East Asia.

"The J-10 is not ready for export yet, as AVIC is still finalising upgrades for the fighter," the source says. "But there has been interest from several countries."

AVIC is likely to begin exports of the new type - which entered Chinese air force service in early 2007 - after it has finished developing an upgraded J-10B version. Enhancements are to include a modified vertical stabiliser and ventral fins, redesigned engine inlet, a new radar and an infrared search and track sensor.

Pakistan is likely to be the first export customer, having begun negotiations to buy 36 aircraft several years ago. To be designated locally as FC-20s, deliveries are likely to begin from 2014-15.

Beijing could extend loans to purchasing countries and offer local assembly if there are sufficient orders, the source adds.