Saudi Arabia May Buy Pakistani-Chinese Fighter Jets
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Saudi Arabia May Buy Pakistani-Chinese Fighter Jets


Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering purchasing the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet that was jointly produced by China and Pakistan.

According to a report in World Tribune, the Saudi Defense Ministry and Royal Saudi Air Force are reviewing the JF-17 program and considering becoming a partner in it. The report said that Pakistan had offered the JF-17 fighter to Saudi Arabia with technology transfer and co-production.

The offer apparently occurred when Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman Bin Sultan visited Pakistan earlier this week. Prince Bin Sultan reportedly toured the JF-17 program while in the country.

The Diplomat could not confirm the report, which World Tribune said was based on interviews with “officials,” without specifying any nationalities. World Tribune is a conservative U.S.-based online newspaper focusing on exclusive and underreported international stories involving strategic affairs. It was founded in 1998 by Robert Morton, formerly the Associate Publisher and a Corporate Editor at the Washington Times, which has a history of reporting on alleged secret defense deals between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Some observers, including The New Yorker, have questioned World Tribune’s credibility.

If the report is accurate, this would represent a potential significant strategic shift from Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally relied on U.S. and Western defense technology for its military needs. The Royal Saudi Air Force, for example, is largely organized around its massive fleet of Boeing F-15 Eagles, with a couple European fighters also thrown into the mix. As recently as September 2010, the U.S. announced a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which included the sale of 84 new F-15s and upgrades on 70 of Saudi Arabia’s existing ones. It was the largest arms deal in U.S. history.

In his new memoir, Robert Gates describes a 2010 meeting where Saudi leader King Abdullah agreed to the enormous arms purchase. Gates said the king’s advisers wanted him to buy French or Russian jets, but King Abdullah opted for the U.S. ones because, according to Gates, “he saw the huge purchase as an investment in a long-term strategic relationship with the United States, linking our militaries for decades to come.”

Still, since that time U.S.-Saudi ties have soured amid disagreements over Iran, Syria and Palestine. In October of last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that “the Saudis told the U.S. that they were open to alternatives to their long-standing defense partnership, emphasizing that they would look for good weapons at good prices.” Then, shortly after the P5+1 and Iran inked an interim agreement on the latter’s nuclear program in November, an advisor to the Saud family told reporters that Saudi Arabia is looking for other allies besides the U.S. Many believe that the Saudi government views Pakistan as a more reliable strategic ally than the United States.

Pakistan, for its part, has long been trying to find countries to buy the JF-17 in order to reduce the per-unit cost the Pakistan Air Force pays for procuring the plane.

As The Diplomat reported back in October, the Pakistani Air Force expects to begin exporting the aircraft this year. A report that ran in multiple Pakistani newspapers at the time said: “The Pakistan Air Force has been assigned [a] target of exporting 5 to 7 JF-17 Thunder planes next year and discussions in this regard are under way with Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Qatar and other friendly countries.”

Yet China and Pakistan have long struggled to find customers for the JF-17, which China calls the FC-1. This hasn’t been for lack of trying, as the two countries have aggressively marketed the plane over the last few years. For example, a Flight Global article in 2010 said that China was in negotiations with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Venezuela, while Pakistan was in talks with Turkey and Egypt. Later there were reports that Argentina and China were in talks about a co-production deal for the FC-1, while Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed Pakistan had offered his country the JF-17, saying it was superior to the U.S. F-16.

Last month, when rolling out the Block-II JF-17 aircrafts, the project director, Air Vice Marshal Javaid Ahmad, said that “several countries in Central Asia, South America and Africa had shown interest in buying the new plane.”

Although Saudi Arabia is rarely mentioned in these reports, there have been some rumors that Saudi Arabia is interested in buying the aircraft. Indian media outlets, quoting Russian industry publications, reported in 2010 that Russia had blocked sales of its RD-93 engines to China over concerns that the JF-17/ FC-1 would compete in international markets with Russia’s own MiG-29.

The Indian reports quoted Russia’s state arms export monopoly, Rosoboronexport (ROE), as saying in a press release: “Under the inter-governmental bilateral agreement in November 2007 China was allowed to re-export RD-93 as part of FC-1 fighter to Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.”

Pakistani JF-17s have also periodically made re-fueling stops in Saudi Arabia.

Shehzor Baloch
February 9, 2014 at 08:04

Indians are having a national day of mourning it seems. From Pakistan not contributing anything in technology in the JF-17 program to other ‘wild speculations’. This is like how a grocer gets jealous after no one buys its rotten produce.

JF-17 is fully operational with all weapon systems now integrated. The program is into Block-II stage now with Block-III being planned.

This deal is a win win, for Saudis. They will enormously benefit from the technology transfer as well as the industrial benefits it will come with. It will also mean that they will be able to ‘plug and play’, saudi made systems, which the Americans won’t allow.

JF-17 will open the door for Saudis to China with Pakistan being the ‘mutual friend’. The jet will serve the Royal Saudi National Guard, Air Force (RSNGAF) very well as well as its aviation industry.

Take a break Indians, we will be exporting our jet while you’d still be waiting for the Tejas to finally grow tits and get married.

Stop hating us, we ain’t that bad :P

January 31, 2014 at 12:48

A subtle way to bail out Pakistan that is made easier by the large number of Pakistan nationals in different capacities in Saudi Arabia.

This makes for a certain “interoperability” and give the Saudis some low tech arms that is ideal for certain tasks that the Americans would not approve of for the use of American supplied arms, such as dealing with domestic insurgents.

The Saudis watched very carefully how the US was able to restrain the use of American supplied arms when regimes changed in the Middle East, and how much leverage the US had, and took the lesson to heart that they need to diversify so as to not end up like Iran with a fleet of nearly useless American aircraft after the fall of the Shah.

January 28, 2014 at 16:02

One thing is for sure, Pak sells JF-17 or not it doesn’t matter. at least its better then the Light Crashed Aircraft LCA of India, at least its operating in the Pakistan airforce and its doing a good job.
And the new Block-II makes it even a greater deal.

February 5, 2014 at 04:28

The block 1 Jf 17 was its IOC configuration which could not fire BVR missiles.Block 2 is the FOC. So it is basically the same aircraft and it is unlikely to have AESA as the crappy RD93 engine will break down supporting a AESA radar so against a rafale or super sukhoi Jf 17 will be toast

amit (India)
January 27, 2014 at 14:47

I’m not trying to put down the JF-17, but it seems very unlikely that a regime which has access to top of the line US and European technology will seek to buy an aircraft that’s not comparable to F-15, Typhoon, Tornado etc. Plus, there is the whole aspect of the US-Saudi strategic relationship.

Going by its price, JF-17 seems more like a high performance fighter for forces with less money to spare, not something you send out against a modern rival. So its quite plausible that forces in some of the African/South American nations may be interested in the craft, but Saudis seem a bit far fetched. Plus, it would help if China were using this aircraft in big numbers – if Chinese prefer to rely on other aircraft that they are developing, its not exactly a vote of confidence on the ‘cutting edge tech’ aspect.

This aircraft may have a great future ahead as a successful export, but I doubt if Saudis will be a part of that future.

Provocateur Extraordinaire
January 26, 2014 at 22:58

The report mentions that Pakistan is contemplating “technology transfer” to sweeten the deal to sell JF-17 to SA. How laughable is that? The pakis could probably double their contribution in the aircraft with a double coat of the paint. That’s about all what they have contributed to the project. And saudis, though none too bright, are a shade better than pakis as far as grey matter is concerned. They have really no reason to buy this aircraft.

January 26, 2014 at 12:58

It is good that Saudis are buying the JF-17 from Pakistan. It is a good fighter and will encourage others to do so as well hopefully.

Let’s just hope that Saudis don’t use this to try to get Pakistan or China to get on board a crazy anti-Iran network. It is time for Muslim countries to unite, not to be divided and grouping up with Zionist or Evanglical nutters.

January 26, 2014 at 04:46

First of all, why would Saudi Arabia buy a jet that the Chinese air force won’t even integrate into their PLAAF as the FC-1? Pakistan sure got taken to lunch by the Chinese, and on top of it, had to flip for the bill considering the JF-17/FC-1 was supposed to be a Sino-Pak joint venture project.

The technology transfer can’t be that great if the Russians have to still provide the RD-93 turbofan engines in order for the JF-17 to fly in Egypt as well as in Pakistan air forces.

All in all, the Chinese couldn’t copy the Russian RD-93 engines with their copycat WS-13 engine. In addition, 80% of China’s air force still relies on Russian made AL-31F turbofans, as the Chinese copycat WS-10 has ‘spooling’ problems, and is totally unreliable, as none have been placed in the J-10 as yet.

BTW, didn’t Egypt, Indonesia, and the Philippines already decide on purchasing the KAI-Lockheed-Martin FA-50 light attack jets? So scratch these three nations off the list of buying the JF-17.

The Chinese might as well offer technology transfers for their J-31 if that helps, as the Chinese air force won’t even integrate that so-called fifth Gen stealth fighter into their air force either. It would be difficult to sell any jet fighters that the host country (China) built (copied) and doesn’t purchase themselves!

January 31, 2014 at 13:29


How can they integrate their 5th generation fighter in to their airforce when it’s still in the development stage???
Heck, the F-22 and F-35 aren’t even really integrated in the USAF yet.

Haris Khan
January 26, 2014 at 00:30

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA)-Pakistan military relationship is more or less restricted to training, exercise, and small arms purchase by KSA.

KSA has in the past purchased Pakistani made G-3 rifles, MG-3 LMG, RPG-7, 106mm reconciles rifles, and some ammo for their artillery systems (155mm, and mortors). Plus KSA procured PAC Super Mushaq basic trainer.

With modern and top of the line aircrafts like F-15SA, Typhoon, and upgraded Tornadoes, I don’t see KSA buying JF-17 aircrafts. Just that the Saudi Deputy-Defense minister visited PAC at Kamra and looked at the aircraft manufacturing facility doesn’t mean they’ll this aircraft plus there is no need for them to buy because they already have top tier fighter aircrafts in their inventory.

Recently KSA bought small arms from Pakistan and passed it on to FSA in Syria.

One of the items which they will be collaboration between these two countries will be the training of officers from KSA especially in Air force and when the Saudi finally conclude a deal to procure submarines.

On the account of KSA-Pakistan missile and nuclear spahre I don’t think Pakistan will ever get involved in nuclear aspects of it. But regarding missiles and rockets there is a possibility that KSA might purchase multiple rocket system like Pakistani manufactured aerial dropped glide bombs, possibly Ra’ad air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) which remains within the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and A-100E MLRS 300mm.

January 26, 2014 at 00:25

Jf 17 is a third gen fighter case it’s engine RD 93 is simply in payable of performing tasks a Mordern 4th or 5th gen fighter is supposed to do. This is the reason why Mig 29 programme despite its excellent design and avionics could never compete with F 16s and Russians themselves are retiring their mig 29s due to problems with rd93

January 25, 2014 at 11:26

Saudi Arabia is the chief financier of Britain and the US … when ever there is a cash crunch, multi billion dollar arms sales to the Saudis is announced … no different from the protection money paid to the street level gangster … major non-NATO ally Pakistan has also taken the same route …

January 25, 2014 at 06:53

Once US manage to secure diplomatic relation with Iran, Saudi Arabia will no longer get that premium attention. Their main focus will be shifted to the new found friend and that includes other Middle Eastern countries as well.

It is time for Saudi and others to move on and not largely depend on them. With so much oil reserve in their terrority, Iran will enjoy the attention that the other Middle East countries once get.

Looking for new avenue is the correct way to move ahead as when the oil slowly deplete in Saudi so will the attentions.

January 25, 2014 at 00:57

World Tribune is a Moon sect media ;) you can link easily the staff and editor with another medias of Moon sect .

And usually they love conspiracy theories and confidential source news

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