Pakistan considers purchase of Chinese light combat aircraft

L-15 fighter jet

Pakistan is in talks with China to purchase light combat aircraft to replace its older F-7PG fighters. These new aircraft, armed variants of the L-15, offer advanced features in terms of weapons capability, sensor systems and operational performance.

Background and objectives of the purchase

At the Dubai Airshow 2023, a significant announcement was made: Pakistan is in formal negotiations with China’s Hongdu Aircraft Company for the acquisition of light combat aircraft. This move is aimed at replacing the aging fleet of F-7PG fighters currently in service with the Pakistani Air Force, used for the conversion of combat pilots.

The L-15: a versatile aircraft

Pakistan is considering the acquisition of a light attack version of the L-15, a trainer aircraft distinguished by its combat capabilities. The choice of this aircraft reveals a preference for a multi-purpose jet, capable of carrying out a variety of missions.

Weapon-carrying capacity

It features nine anchor points, capable of carrying around three tons of armaments, strategically distributed on the fuselage and wings. These include HJ-10 multi-purpose anti-tank guided missiles and LS series laser- and satellite-guided bombs, weighing between 250 and 500 kg. This armament capability considerably enhances the aircraft’s ground attack capabilities.

Sensor systems and electronics

The L-15 is equipped with Chinese light airborne sensors, including multi-mode targeting pods and electronic jammers. Its anti-aircraft capability is enhanced by its electronically scanned radar and the integration of PL-12 long-range air-to-air missiles and PL-10 short-range infrared missiles.

Extended operational range

Range extension options, including jettisonable fuel tanks, improve its combat range by 500 km, increasing operational efficiency and mission flying time.

L-15 fighter jet

Strategic and operational implications

Pakistan’s potential acquisition of these light combat aircraft has several important implications.

Air force modernization

This replacement marks a significant step in the modernization of Pakistan’s air force. By replacing the old F-7PGs with more advanced L-15s, Pakistan is improving its ability to carry out complex air operations.

Enhanced defense capabilities

With superior weapons capabilities and advanced sensor systems, Pakistan is strengthening its defense capabilities, particularly in anti-tank operations and missions to suppress enemy air defenses.

Impact on regional security

This purchase could have a significant impact on the balance of military power in the region. The modernization of Pakistan’s air arsenal could prompt neighboring countries to review their own military capabilities.

China-Pakistan cooperation

This also underlines the growing cooperation between China and Pakistan in the defense field, an alliance that could have political and military repercussions in the region.

Geopolitical consequences

Pakistan’s commitment to Chinese fighter jets can be interpreted as a sign of China’s growing influence in the region. This transaction could potentially influence relations between Pakistan, its neighbors and other world powers.

Implications for India-Pakistan relations

India, Pakistan’s neighbor and regional rival, could perceive this acquisition as a threat, which could lead to an escalation of military tensions in the region.

Implications for Sino-American relations

Given the historic relationship between Pakistan and the United States, particularly in the field of military cooperation, this purchase could be seen as a move away from Pakistan’s traditional partnership with the United States to China.

In short, Pakistan’s planned purchase of Chinese light combat aircraft is a major development, both technically and strategically. Not only does it symbolize a significant step forward in the modernization of Pakistan’s air force, it also represents a shift in the regional balance of power and geopolitical alliances. The implications of this purchase will be closely watched by regional and international players, as they could redefine security dynamics in South Asia and beyond.

War Wings Daily is an independant magazine.