China Sends 'Several
Squadrons' Of Brand
New Jets To Pakistan
By Kamran Khan
The News - Pakistan

KARACHI - In an historic, but, unannounced development, the Peoples Republic of China sharply reduced a marked imbalance between the Indian and Pakistan Air Force by sending five ships -- in a space of only 10 days late last month -- loaded with cargo ranging from cartons of unassembled brand new combat aircraft and a variety of air force-related weapons and equipment to the port in Karachi, senior Pakistani officials confirmed.

Separately the Chinese government made a speedy delivery of spares and related equipment for Pakistan's strategic assets through Korakram highway, a little before the snow created major obstacles on this crucial communication line between Pakistan and China before Christmas. Pakistan's extensive missile defence system has been raised with an active support of the Chinese government.

The senior officials said that in an unprecedented gesture of friendship to Pakistan, the Chinese government had sent the ships sailing for Karachi before President General Pervez Musharraf met Chinese President Jiang Zemin for a crucial dialogue that coincided with the peak of border tension between Pakistan and India on December 21.

On more than one occasion during President Pervez Musharraf's visit to China in December, the Chinese leadership reiterated that China's friendship with Pakistan "was deeper than the oceans and higher than the mountains." This timely assistance from China that instantly enhanced the combat capability of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) by "several squadrons of brand new Super-7 and F-7 fighter aircraft" also narrowed a dangerous 1:2 ratio of air force planes between India and Pakistan.

Before the Chinese assistance reached Pakistan last week, the Indian Air Force had 730 aircraft as compared to PAF's 340. Because of the military security reasons, Pakistani officials are withholding the exact number of fighter aircraft added to the PAF with Chinese assistance in the last few weeks.

For the last several years, the Aviation Industry of China and the Aviation Integrated Company of Pakistan had been working on a joint plan to build a light-weight multipurpose fighter aircraft. The project was completed late last year with production ready in time for shipment to Pakistan.

Pakistani military officials consider the proposed S-7 fighter aircraft as a variant of China's F-7 fighter plane family, but with an increased manoeuvrability, an engine with increased thrust, advanced avionics equipment and modern cockpit configuration. These officials said the S-7 has night combat capability. The integrated close range combat effectiveness of the S-7 is 90 per cent higher than that of the original F-7 family.

Before the arrival of PAF cargo from China late last month, the air force had arrangements ready to shift the unassembled aircraft from the Karachi port to various PAF facilities where Pakistani and Chinese officials worked together to assemble and deploy them in a record time.

The Pakistani officials noted that since coming to power, President General Pervez Musharraf has developed extremely close personal ties with Chinese President Jiag Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji. Because of the Indian ban on Pakistan to use its air space, the officials said, Premier Rongji had personally desired that President Musharraf should take the trip after an overnight stopover in Beijing on board a Chinese government aircraft as Chinese pilots were better trained to fly in that difficult airspace and weather. Before leaving for the SAARC summit, President Musharraf had taken a special meeting on the PAF preparedness in the wake of the Chinese assistance.

According to the Pakistani officials, after the recent induction, the PAF has developed increased capacity in the event of war to interdict Indian naval and cargo vessels in the Indian ocean, besides devoting more resources to strike Indian military targets in its key cities and cantonments.

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