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With the Success of the JF-17; Pakistan Begins Work its 'Project-AZM' Fifth Generation Fighter with China

December 08th - 2017

Pakistan is one of the few counties to have successfully launched a fourth generation fighter, the JF-17, a light multirole platform developed alongside China and available for export. Where the forth generation programs of other countries such as Israel's Lavi and India's Tejas have stalled or been cancelled, Pakistan has with Chinese assistance made the bulk of its fleet largely independent of foreign aquisitions - though the coutnry may still require heavier air superiority fighters from abroad if it seeks to match countries India's lethal Su-30MKI in the air. Following on from the success of the JF-17, Pakistan has begun a joint fifth generation fighter program with China.

Much like the JF-17, Pakistan's fifth generation fighter is almost certain to be a light and low cost platform - more similar to the cheaper and smaller F-35 and J-31 than the J-20 and F-22. The development of a fifth generation fighter is nevertheless an unexpected and somewhat incredible feat for a country with a GDP of just $280 billion. The only countries which have embarked on fifth generation programs successfully have been the United States, China and Russia - with Japan having produced a prototype and South Korea and Turkey stalling in their own development programs. Pakistan's entry into the fifth generation fighter league is a significant step for the country's prestige, and demonstrates both the potency of its indigenous defense industries and the value of Chinese technological assistance.

In the inaugural session of AirTech 2017, a conference held at Islamabad's Air University, the Pakistan Air Force's Chief of Air Staff Sohail Aman stated that: "Pakistan is engaged with Chinese experts in manufacturing the next generation aircraft. China is also providing technical assistance for launching the satellite programme." The fighter program was known as Project Azm, and was expected to significantly expand the country's aviation industry. The project also represents Pakistan's increasing independence from the United States in its defense sector amid souring relations between the two countries. With production for a fifth generation platform having been scheduled for 2022, the project's schedule is extremely ambitious but with Chinese technological assistance may well be possible. Project Azm is however unlikely to mitigate Pakistan's need for a heavy air superiority fighter to match India's Su-30 - as much like the F-35 and J-31 light fighters it will be unable to contend with such platform regardless of its stealth capabilities.

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