Saudi Arabia has shown interest in buying JF-17 Thunder jet fighter aircraft manufactured under Pakistan-China cooperation. Citing a report published in US journal, Saudi Defence Ministry and Saudi Air Force are keenly examining the JF-17 Thunder program and mulling over their participation in it.
The report claimed that Pakistan has offered Saudi Arabia for joint manufacturing of JF-17 Thunder aircraft along with technology transfer. This offer was made to the Saudi Arabia Deputy Defence Minister Salman bin Sultan during his visit to Pakistan last week.
This would represent a potential significant strategic shift from Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally relied on US and Western defence technology for its military needs. The Royal Saudi Air Force, for example, is largely organised 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 US announced a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which included the sale of 84 new F-15s and upgrades on 70 of Saudi Arabiaís existing ones. It was the largest arms deal in US history.
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.
Yet China and Pakistan have long struggled to find customers for the JF-17, which China calls the FC-1. This hasnít 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.
A defence accord between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was signed in Islamabad on January 20th, while a similar agreement between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia was signed in Jakarta two days later.