In 2019, Dubai Airshow unveiled an export variant of J-10CE for just $40 million dollars, and the Chinese expert Xiao Feizhu had said it will be difficult to sell them even to traditional Chinese fighter jets buyers since it faces fierce competition in the international market. Yet in 2022, the Pakistan Air force (PAF) will be taking deliveries of 25 J-10CE thus becoming the first country outside China to operate these jets allegedly to counter Indian purchase of Rafale jets. A downward spiral of the Pakistani economy and reduced military budget not many defense analysts like Ranesh Rajan consider this being a military deal but rather military aid.

Pakistan Air force (PAF) was the first to get access to the J-10A in 2006 and 2008 it evaluated the jet but found glaring technical deficiencies in the jet and instead it went with the 18 new F-16C/D block 50/52 aircraft, with an option to buy another 18 more that were provided largely as military aid to Pakistan by the United States government for their support in the Afghanistan war.

But United States government blocked the sale of 8 F-16C/D blocks 50/52 aircraft due to fierce congressional opposition that could have forced Pakistan to pay $700 million for 8 F-16C/D blocks 50/52 aircraft instead of $270 million. Even if $40 million are only the unit price of J-10CE fighter’s bare metal, plus the cost of ammunition parts and training support, it should be no less than $60-70 million even for a country that already operates vast Chinese fighter jets (F-7, JF-17) like Pakistan.

25 J-10CE even with a domestically produced WS-10A turbofan engine could have breached the $1 Billion mark easily, money that Pakistan simply can’t afford seeing the economic condition of the country that is often seen struggling to arrange $1-2 Billion funds every few months to repay past debt.

Pakistani media has no details of this alleged military deal nor has any details when it was cleared, many Pakistani analysts have failed to explain how funds were made available and when the deal was executed that it is a clear telltale sign that the 25 J-10CE are being provided to Pakistan as a military aid where the cost to own them might be near zero to the Pakistani government and more to do with Chinese trying to do a balancing act by providing J-10CE to enhances PAF capabilities to counter planned modernization of the IAF.

Pakistan in the past let go of getting its hands-on 8 F-16 due to lack of funds when its economic conditions were much better and then countless Pakistani media shows and former project director of JF-17 had repeatedly made claims that JF-17 is comparable to Indian Rafale then sudden U-turn and purchase of J-10 shows it was more of Military aid then a deal.

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