The rumor that has been going around for a couple of years has just been confirmed. Pakistan is acquiring more than 25 Chengdu J-10 «Vigorous Dragon» multirole fighters, to face India’s purchase of the Dassault Rafale.
The news was made public by Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, during a public event. According to the Minister, the induction into service of the Chinese-origin fighter would begin as early as March 2022. In fact, according to the Minister, 25 J-10s are expected to flypast on March 23, as part of Pakistan’s celebration of that national festivity.
There is still no official confirmation of the number of units purchased, but reliable sources in Pakistan claim that 36 aircraft are involved, enough to equip two squadrons of 18 fighters each.
There are also no details yet on the model of the Vigorous Dragon purchased for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), but Minister Sheikh Rasheed also commented that the addition of the J-10s are a direct response to the purchase of the Rafale by the Indian Air Force (IAF), and that these aircraft are far superior to the French fighters. It can therefore be assumed that the squadron of aircraft purchased are the J-10C model, the latest and most modern version of this fighter currently in production.
The J-10C (or a derivative version of it adapted to the needs of the PAF) is a modern, agile and powerful 4.5 generation fighter. Equipped with an AESA active electronically scanning radar, powerful ECM, low RCS and a wide range of smart munitions at its disposal, it is in the same league as the Rafale acquired by India.
If the minister’s predictions come true the J-10C (or CE or CP)would be the first fighter aircraft in active service in the Pakistan Air Force to incorporate AESA radar technology, even before the JF-17 Block III, a domestic product. Or will we hear news of the new version of the Thunder soon?
Probably, as more funds become available, it should be followed by the purchase of a second J-10 squadron, and even a third, as the PAF’s re-equipment needs are great because it still has a large number of F-7 and Mirage ROSE fighters to replace. They could even end up replacing the 40+ of Lockheed Martin F-16s in service, if they are not upgraded in the short/medium term to the Viper variant.
Erratum: The first information I handled was of 1 squadron and 25 units acquired. But the minister’s correct quote would have been «»25 J-10 will participate in the parade. The first squadron will be in Pakistan (by then).» I thank the kindness of AEROSINT Division PSF who contacted me to bring me more precise data.