PARIS: Beating those JF-17 blues

Singapore
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Chinese arms exporter CATIC has received a number of potential customers in its chalet, despite the failure of its flagship export offering, the Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 fighter, to appear at the show.

 
Chengdu JP-17
 Tom Gordon©

"On the first day we have received a number of international visitors at our stand," said CATIC president Ma Zhiping. "We've entertained customers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. On the first day we had meetings with 10 customers. They were interested in all of our aircraft, including the JF-17."

CATIC is no newcomer to Le Bourget. It first came to Paris in 1987, and 2011 marks its twelfth appearance at the show.

Ma said CATIC had planned to have three Pakistani air force JF-17s in Paris to appear in the static area and perform flying displays. The service is the only current operator of the type. He attributed their absence to the unstable political situation in Pakistan.

However, Ma is confident that the JF-17 will appear at Dubai air show, which runs from 13-17 November.

Citing strong interest in the JF-17 from countries in Africa and the Middle East, he said several countries have had test flights of the low-cost aircraft. A new international buyer for the type is likely to be announced within the next two to three years.

CATIC has, meanwhile, done particularly well with its helicopters. Within the past five years it has signed 30 international contracts for military transport helicopters. Mainly these are light types such as the AC311, but the firm is seeing interest in its large AC313, which has a maximum take-off weight of 13,000kg (28,630lb). Ma said the AC313 has proven effective at operating in high altitudes up to 18,000ft (5,500m), and has received interest from Asian countries.

Separately, deliveries of eight Shaanxi Y-8 transport aircraft to Venezuela will start in 2012 following its signature of a 2010 deal with CATIC.