Pakistan Aeronautical Complex’s JF-17 is in the race to replace Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) light combat aircraft/fighter lead-in trainer (LCA/FLIT) jets including BAE Systems Hawk and Aeromacchi MB339 trainers, and its Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters.
The 8 fighter jets shortlisted based on the requirements include:
- PAC/AVIC JF-17 Thunder
- AVIC L-15A/B
- Saab JAS-39 Gripen
- KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle
- Aero Vodochody L-39NG
- Yakovlev Yak-130
- Leonardo M346
- HAL Tejas
According to the requirements, the RMAF is looking for up to 36 multi-mission and cost-effective aircraft with an option to add another 26. It is expected that RMAF could be looking to acquire fighter jets worth RM 36 billion ($8.61 billion) over the next 10 years. The common denominator in its requirements is the ability to offer advanced jet training and ground-to-air and air-to-air operations.
PAC is a strong candidate in the competition, however, it faces massive competition from China’s L-15A/B as well as from Korea’s FA-50 Fighting Eagle and Saab JAS-39 Gripen. In recent times, Pakistan has been making strides to export JF-17s to Malaysia and Azerbaijan after successful deals with Nigeria and Myanmar. The forte for PAC’s JF-17 is that it is battle-tested and offers low upfront and maintenance costs.
The counter-trade options are not yet known and each of the suppliers is likely to come up with lucrative offers. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan’s close friend Malaysia goes for JF-17 or any other platform.
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