Azerbaijan (Still) Kicking Tires On Chinese-Pakistani Fighter Jets
Azerbaijan seems to be looking seriously at rejuvenating its air force with Chinese-Pakistani fighter jets, the state news agency APA reports. They cite a source from the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, one of the builders of the aircraft, at the big Dubai air show:
Members of the Azerbaijani delegation watched the JF-17's demonstration flights at the airshow, the PAC officials said.
They said that several rounds of discussions had been held with the Azerbaijani side, but that talks had yet to reach the purchase and sale stage. They said that the initial size of the order had been determined, however. PAC is meeting orders from Pakistan’s Air Forces at present and would be able to meet an Azerbaijani order in the next few years.
This is not news, exactly; Azerbaijan has been talking about this for at least four years. To quote from a news story then:
In the spring of 2007, at the international military exhibition IDEAS in Dubai, the Azerbaijani side became interested in the multi-functional JF-17 fighter developed and produced jointly by China and Pakistan, as well as small-bore weapons and tanks made in Pakistan...
In 2009, APA was reporting it as more or less a done deal.
So is this anything new? The JF-17 only entered service in Pakistan in 2010, and doesn't yet have a single international buyer, so it's not remarkable that Baku hasn't pulled the trigger yet. And this would seem a logical plane for them to buy, as U.S. aircraft are off the table for political reasons and buying from Russia would be difficult, given Moscow's alliance with Armenia (the recent S-300 sale notwithstanding). All that makes Azerbaijan a good candidate to be the first air force in the Caucasus or Central Asia to buy a non-Russian aircraft. But that still could be some time away.
UPDATE: Steve Trimble of Flight Global writes in to note: "Russia could still complicate the Azerbaijani order. The JF-17 is powered by the RD-93 engine, and the only supplier is Russia. So any JF-17 deal would require compliance by Moscow." Which is a good point, though it wouldn't have quite the same symbolism as selling MiGs or Sukhois, and so the JF-17 would still be a less controversial sale.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.
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