Pakistan's prime minister will use a a forthcoming visit to Beijing to press the Chinese Government to make a firm commitment to the planned new Chengdu FC-1 fighter and jointly developed Nanchang K-8 trainer.
Islamabad is making an order for the FC-1 and K-8 conditional on the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) also committing to buying the two aircraft in large numbers. The two programmes have suffered delays and are now in a state of limbo pending any firm development or production go-ahead from China.
According to defence sources in Beijing, the two military programmes will be high on the agenda of Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Shariff, during his scheduled trip to China. The Pakistan air force has identified a clear requirement for both aircraft and wants to protect the two programmes from any further delay, but cannot afford to proceed with either without PLAAF support.
Development of the AlliedSignal TFE731-2A-powered K-8, in which the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) has a 25% stake, is complete. The Pakistan air force has finished evaluating six pre-production series aircraft and is using them for training at its Risalpur academy. It hopes to order up to 100 jets to replace Cessna T-37 trainers.
Nanchang, however, has been forced to re-engine the proposed Chinese K-8J version of the trainer with the Progress DV-2 turbofan, following the US Government's refusal to allow local licence production of the TFE731.
The modified Chinese K-8J version has a wider and extended aft fuselage to accommodate the larger Ukrainian powerplant, as well as a metric scale Rockwell Collins EFIS-86 cockpit display.
China has already spent six months evaluating the K-8J, but has yet to order the aircraft beyond the initial pre-production batch of 15 aircraft. "A PLAAF decision is a very important factor and as soon as they decide on it, the programme can take off," says PAC K-8 director Jalal-ud-Din Sadiq. "Production of 200-250 jets would be a good number to break even."
Pakistan has also been negotiating to take a 25-30% stake in the development of the single-engined FC-1 fighter, with China to provide the balance. It is planned to develop two versions of the fighter, with Pakistan wanting to equip the aircraft with a yet-to-be selected Western radar and avionics suite. The PLAAF variant would be fitted with locally sourced systems.
The FC-1 faces competition for Chinese funding from the more advanced Chengdu F-10 fighter and Xian FB-7 strike aircraft now under development, as well off-the-shelf purchases and planned licence manufacture of Sukhoi Su-27/Su-30MK Flanker.