During a visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani to Beijing in late May, it was reported that China is to provide 50 Chengdu JF-17 Thunder multirole fighters to Pakistan, and that China will pay for the aircraft. The report comes at a time when Pakistan’s relations with the U.S.–its other principal warplane supplier–have soured over the May 2 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
According to the announcement in China, the JF-17s will be provided on an “urgent” basis, although this probably means an acceleration of the current production process. It was also stated the JF-17s will have improved avionics–probably the Block 2 configuration–compared with the current batch of 42 aircraft being co-produced by Chengdu and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra. The production line has completed some 20 serial aircraft to date, now in service with No. 26 “Black Spiders” Squadron, with No. 16 “Panthers” Squadron in the process of converting from the Hongdu A-5.
According to Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar, Gilani and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also discussed the supply of Chengdu FC-20 fighters (export designation for J-10).