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China Eyes J-10A Sale To Iran

Technologically, the J-10As are fitted with Russian AL31FN engines. China has signed a contract to procure a new batch of 50 such engines from Russia in 2008, which means China's indigenous WS10A turbofan engine cannot yet meet the requirements of the PLA air force.
by Andrei Chang
Hong Kong (UPI) Dec 14, 2007
Is China preparing to export its J-10A fighter aircraft to Iran? Most likely, say military observers in Moscow and Tehran. The Russian Kommersant Daily reported that an Iranian aviation company agent had confirmed that China would export to Iran 24 J-10A fighters between 2008 and 2010 at a price of $1 billion.

Allowing this information to surface at this time appears intended to embarrass, and warn, the United States. China is sending the message that it too can play the arms export game -- reminding the United States to think twice about its arms sales to Taiwan, especially Block 52 F-16 fighters.

It is widely known that Iran has been seeking to acquire third-generation fighter aircraft. Not long ago Iran approached Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi, saying the country intended to import as many as 250 Sukhoi fighters. Iran is also sending messages, in the midst of the tussle over its nuclear intentions, that it has strong non-Western allies and shouldn't be trifled with. Iran is taking advantage of U.S.-China friction to cozy up to Beijing and warn the United States and Israel not to take any reckless action.

Politically, if the sale of the J-10A fighters goes through, it will certainly cause turbulence in U.S.-China relations. Despite this strategic aggressiveness, China will hold to its longstanding policy of biding its time and concealing its military capabilities while trying to minimize Sino-U.S. friction. Therefore, unless a major conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Strait, the United States intervenes militarily and U.S.-China relations deteriorate dramatically, China will somewhat restrain its exports of high-tech weapons, strategic weapons and long-range missiles to Iran at the current stage.

Technologically, the J-10As are fitted with Russian AL31FN engines. China has signed a contract to procure a new batch of 50 such engines from Russia in 2008, which means China's indigenous WS10A turbofan engine cannot yet meet the requirements of the PLA air force.

Under this circumstance, Russia will not allow China to use AL31FN engines on the J-10As to be exported to Iran, in order to protect Sukhoi's market. As a consequence, China may have to delay the export of its fighters to Iran until after it perfects the WS10A technology. This is unlikely to happen now or anytime soon.

Furthermore, the J-10A production lines are now focused on meeting the needs of the PLA air force, and Pakistan will come next. China's production capacity is not yet sufficient to meet the demands of the two air forces for J-10A fighters.

Pakistan assisted China in developing the J-10A by providing a thorough understanding of the structure of the F-16 fighter aircraft, which Pakistan has from the United States. Therefore, the Pakistani air force has first access to the J-10A. China and Pakistan also have future plans to jointly develop FC-20 fighters on the basis of the J-10A.

The final factor in the speculation about Iran's planned fighter purchase involves Tehran's financial capability. It seems highly suspect that Iran intends to purchase as many as 250 Sukhoi fighters. In building up its air force, Iran has basically followed in the footsteps of China, relying mainly on indigenous production.

Russia recently provided to Iran 50 RD-33 engines for the development of Iran's indigenous "Lightning" fighter. The speculation that Iran intends to purchase Sukhoi fighters from Russia has been around for quite a long time, but in fact the only Russian combat aircraft that Iran has purchased from Russia are three Su-25UBTs. The contract was reportedly signed in 2005, but this has not been officially confirmed.

On top of speculations about China's planned export of J-10As to Iran are hints that China has been actively promoting its FBC2 (JH-7A) fighter-bomber to Iran as well, obviously under the same political and military rationale. Nonetheless, this is unlikely to result in any definite deal anytime soon.

(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto.)

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Analysis: Israel defense exports strong
Haifa, Israel (UPI) Dec 13, 2007
Israel is climbing the list of the world's top arms exporters, and as such will redouble efforts to make responsible exports, Pinchas Bucharis, director general of the country's defense ministry, announced this week.

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