Pakistan also wants its 5th generation fighter

This is information that is likely to be perplexing. Pakistani authorities have announced that they have completed the first phase of the AZM program, intended to simultaneously design a MALE Drone, a long-range anti-aircraft defense system, new munitions and a 5th generation combat aircraft. According to the annual report of the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, the Azm project, meaning “sincere commitment”, and which began in July 2017, would have carried out the first of 4 planned preliminary studies, intended to define the level of threats at which the new system of systems will have to face in the future, and to deduce the performance of each of the elements to ensure that the Pakistani air forces maintain military superiority.

To achieve this, the Pakistani authorities want to rely on the country's aeronautical complex which, although it is not very well known outside its borders, has accumulated a lot of experience over the years, particularly in the modernization of aircraft. in service, as well as in its collaboration with the Chinese Chengdu in the design of the JF-17. In particular, this complex has made a specialty in Retrofit and regeneration of the potential of old aircraft, such as the French Mirage III and V, or the Chinese F-7, by deconstructing and rebuilding the aircraft anew and integrating new avionics equipment and weapon systems with each pass.

JF17 Pakistan Defense Analysis | Fighter aircraft | Military aircraft construction
The JF-17 Thunder is undoubtedly a success of technological cooperation between Pakistan and China

But this project will be anything but simple for Pakistani industry, which does not have certain critical know-how, such as the design of turbo-reactors For example. Even if this is not currently addressed by the authorities in Islamabad, the country will certainly need to rely on a technological partner, as it did for the JF-17 program. Two hypotheses seem to stand out today. In the first place, China, with whom it developed the JF-17, and who is its main partner and strong political ally today. The latter notably has the FC-31 Gyrfalcon program, a 5th generation fighter lighter than the J20, but which has not yet been able to convince due to the disappointing performance of the first prototype. A second prototype has seen the light of day and could well revive interest in the device, a priori intended for the export market by Beijing.

The second partner, and probably the most interesting for Islamabad today, would be Turkey, and its TFX program. Like Pakistan, Turkey wants to develop its own 5th generation fighter program, so as to achieve a status of strategic autonomy. In addition, the leaders of the two countries make common cause on many issues, Pakistan having been one of the very few countries to have openly supported Turkish military action in northern Syria. Finally, in recent years, the Pakistani forces have become the main clients of the Turkish defense industry, by ordering, in particular, Ada-class corvettes, and T-129 combat helicopters. But for its TFX program, Ankara also, like Islamabad, needs technological partners, particularly on the thorny problem of engines.

Artist's impression of the Turkish 5th generation TFX aircraft program Defense Analyzes | Fighter aircraft | Military aircraft construction
The temptation to join the Turkish TFX program is certainly great in Islamabad

For now, the program is designed with technical assistance from the English BAe and Rolls Royce, who undoubtedly have the skills to bring the TFX to fruition. But the recent tensions surrounding the Turkish intervention in Syria against the Kurds could well undermine this partnership. In this case, the Turkish authorities could be tempted to turn to Moscow. However, if Pakistan were a partner in the program, this would very likely provoke the anger of New Delhi, which has already threatened to cancel the technological assistance contract to the construction of its supply tankers at the Turkish Anadolu shipyards due to the construction of Ada corvettes for the Pakistani forces. However, India remains, by far, the largest customer of the Russian defense industry, and Moscow intends to preserve this market essential to its Defense effort. From then on, and in the absence of a Western solution, Ankara would only be left with Beijing to fill in the technological blanks, which would not be probably not to displease the Pakistanis.

This Pakistani program is the 3rd new generation fighter program supported by emerging aeronautical industries, with South Korea and Turkey. They will be confronted with American (F35), Russian (Su57), Chinese (FC31) production, but by positioning themselves on a traditional segment of Europeans like Dassault Aviation with the Mirages, Americans like General Dynamics with the F16, and Russians like Mig with the Mig29. However, these aircraft now represent the largest share of the world's fighter fleets, whether in Western, Asian, African or American countries. By concentrating all Western programs on the segment of medium+ versatile devices, like the Typhoon et Rafale today, or FCAS and Tempest tomorrow, is the European industry not abandoning the world market to its emerging competitors, forgetting that it was when the United States did the same with the Century Series, that Dassault's Mirages were able to establish themselves in more than 13 countries?

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