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Updated January 5th, 2024 at 17:18 IST

Uncertainty looms over regional dynamics as Pakistan reveals acquisition of Chinese FC-31 Gyrfalcon

Pakistan's Air Chief Marshal announces the acquisition of the Chinese FC-31 Gyrfalcon fighter, enhancing the country's air capabilities.

Yuvraj Tyagi
Chinese FC-31
Chinese FC-31 | Image:Republic/Chinamil
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Islamabad: Pakistan is set to acquire the Chinese FC-31 Gyrfalcon, developed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. Pakistan's Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu announced the acquisition of the Chinese FC-31 Gyrfalcon fifth-generation fighter during an induction ceremony for new equipment, which included the J-10C Firebird fighters. While details regarding the acquisition timeline, quantity, and implications for Pakistan's interest in the Turkish-made Kaan fifth-generation fighter remain undisclosed, the announcement marks a notable addition to Pakistan's air capabilities.

The acquisition has raised questions about its impact on the military balance in the region, particularly with archrival India. Justin Bronk, an aerospace expert from the Royal United Services Institute, emphasized the difficulty in predicting the impact due to vague understandings of the FC-31's capabilities, delivery timelines, and operational aspects. The effectiveness of the aircraft's stealth, sensors, and sensor fusion, along with the pace of Indian defense developments, will play pivotal roles in determining its significance. 

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China’s role and downsides for Pakistan 

Chinese J-20 fighter jet made by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). | Credit- Chinamil

While the implications for Pakistan are uncertain, Rick Fisher, an expert on China’s military, highlighted the strategic significance for China in a Defense News report. He noted that sharing the FC-31 program with Pakistan provides a subsidy supporting the production of China's Chengdu J-20 heavy fifth-gen fighter. Additionally, it defends the Pakistani market from potential European and Turkish fifth-gen options. The FC-31/J-35 program aligns with China's objectives of building up its fifth-gen fighter numbers, providing a platform for the PLA Navy, and competing globally with advanced counterparts. 

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However, concerns have been raised about the downsides of Pakistan's acquisition plan. Kaiser Tufail, an analyst and former Pakistan Air Force pilot, highlighted two key issues. Firstly, the induction of multiple fighter types could pose challenges in terms of training and maintenance. Secondly, he expressed concerns about the country's economic situation, advocating for drastic spending curtailment. Tufail suggested that the existing JF-17 (Block 3), J-10, and F-16s could adequately fulfill air superiority roles, and the need for stealthy platforms could be addressed through UAVs for tactical support operations.  

As Pakistan ventures into acquiring the FC-31 Gyrfalcon, the strategic and economic considerations surrounding the decision add complexity to the regional military dynamics. The impact on the delicate balance with India and the broader implications for China's military programs will be closely monitored as the acquisition progresses. 

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Published January 5th, 2024 at 17:18 IST

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