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Will China beat Russia to become the second largest fighter exporter after the US?


It is not known how likely China is to become the second largest fighter exporter after the US, Chinese fighters are limited in buyers and the country is trying to Try to attract customers.

On July 1, China’s fleet of 15 J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters set up an unprecedented large flying formation to fly over Beijing on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. This display is not only to affirm China’s growing air power, but also to attract the attention of potential foreign customers to the country’s fighters, according to The EurAsian Times.

J-20
China issued a ban on the export of J-20 “Fightful Dragon” fighter

According to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China – the world’s second largest military spender is gradually taking the lead in the race to become an exporter of military weapons. the global.

China was the world’s fifth largest arms exporter over the past decade (2010-2020), after the United States, Russia, France and Germany, rising from ninth place in the 2005-2009 assessment.

China as an arms exporter

According to SIPRI’s assessment, China’s arms export market is mainly in Asia (77.3%), followed by Africa (19.1%) and the remaining 3.6% goes to other countries. other regions of the world, including Latin America.

Top buyers of Chinese weapons in Asia include Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. In Africa, countries like Algeria, Tanzania, and Nigeria are still the top importers of Chinese weapons.

China’s export markets grew from 40 countries to 53 countries in the second half of the decade, and four of its defense companies are in the world’s top 25.

JF-17
JF-17 fighter developed by China in cooperation with Pakistan.

China has largely benefited from the vacuum in many of the arms markets of many countries facing Western sanctions. Countries like Venezuela, which is subject to an arms embargo by the US for not cooperating with US-led counterterrorism efforts, Pakistan, which faces similar international sanctions, and Iran, which has been banned. arms transportation for 13 years because of the nuclear program, all have turned to Chinese military hardware.

China also signed a $400 billion Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Iran, which will define and guide cooperation between the two sides over the next 25 years.

However, International experts have repeatedly criticized the use of Chinese weapons and other equipment by state and non-state forces in countries with conflicts, especially in the Middle East.

China’s fighter export

China’s stealth fighter J-20 is said to face an export ban due to concerns that the fifth technology falls into the wrong hands. This is similar to the export ban imposed by the US on the F-22 Raptor, one of two fifth-generation stealth aircraft that the US operates alongside the F-35.

The military magazine National Interest quoted Beijing-based expert Song Zhongping as saying that China would only consider lifting the ban only if the US did the same with the F-22 Raptor. “If US allies own the F-22, then China’s allies will need the J-20 to balance it out,” Song said.

Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), a private company considered the “cradle” of Chinese fighters, has been successfully developing fighter aircraft since the Mao Zedong era.

During the Cold War era, the J-5, J-6 and J-7, variants of the Soviet-era MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters that China produced brought fighter aircraft. China on the world map. Customers including Pakistan, Albania, Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria and even the US are said to have purchased the J-5 (NATO designation Fresco) for use as a disguise. Mobile threats in the tests.

It is believed that North Korea still operates the F-5 (export version of the J-5) and F-6 (the domestic variant of the J-6). Later variants J-8, J-11 (developed from the Russian Sukhoi Su-27) and J-16 are exclusively used by the Chinese Air Force. It is not yet clear whether these models will be produced for export purposes.

Development of a J-13 air superiority fighter has even been cancelled. On the other hand, fighter jets developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAIG) such as the Chengdu J-7 and JF-17 Thunder have been exported to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Nigeria.

China is said to be promoting the fourth-generation multirole fighter Chengdu J-10, a fighter that competes with the US F-16, but has not yet received a receiver. Iran is probably at the negotiating table, but China doesn’t seem to want to close the deal, according to The EurAsian Times.

Forbes magazine published an article comparing the growth of China’s fighter industry with that of Russia, predicting the possibility that China has the potential to export more fighter jets as more markets become available. 

In addition to Chinese manufacturing capabilities, the use of composite materials to make the aircraft light, the integration of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars into modern designs, and complete stealth systems more to help China outmaneuver Russian aircraft designs, the article noted.

According to the 2021 database on the World Air Force (World Air Force), China has surpassed Russia in the number of combat aircraft in service.

The FC-31, a modern fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by SAC, is believed to be China’s answer to the US F-35, which is targeting the global market.

A prototype FC-31 was unveiled in celebration of SAC’s 70th anniversary, marking an important milestone in the aircraft’s development.

Buyer restrictions?

Despite an ambitious indigenous fighter program, Chinese fighters have limited buyers. Aircraft and aerospace expert Richard Aboulafia said that China is trying to attract customers to buy its modern fighter jets.

Citing data from SIPRI, the article said that over the past decade, China exported $7.2 billion in military aircraft, most of which consisted of individual parts rather than the entire aircraft. SIPRI ranks the country behind the US ($99.6 billion), Russia ($61.5 billion) and France ($14.7 billion).

Commenting on China’s foreign policy, expert Aboulafia emphasized that China’s lack of commercial soft power and strategic alliances has pushed away potential customers such as Malaysia and the Philippines, while other markets Influential military schools such as Singapore, South Korea and Australia remain aligned with the US.

Still, as China pledges to expand its military and influence, the question remains whether it can rise to become a mass exporter of fighter jets.


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