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Pakistan rolls out fighter jet produced with Chinese assistance

world Updated: Nov 23, 2009 23:07 IST

IANS
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Pakistan on Monday celebrated the rollout of a multi-purpose jet fighter manufactured in the country under a joint venture with China.

The first locally produced JF-17 Thunder made its debut at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, a small garrison town some 65 km northwest of Islamabad.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani described the launch as "a milestone" that placed Pakistan among an elite club of nations that manufacture fighter aircraft.

Pakistan had signed a development contract with China's Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation in June 1999, and the co-produced aircraft made its maiden flight in China in September 2003.

"It is indeed a landmark achievement, which signifies the triumph of the will of our nation," Pakistan Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said in a statement.

Suleman said the JF-17 Thunder project was not just limited to producing the aircraft for the two neighbours, adding that their sale to other countries "would god willing accrue substantial financial benefits in the near future".

The all-weather jet fighter is equipped with advanced avionics and weapons systems, and can reach top speeds of Mach 1.6. It has a combat radius of 1,350 km, but is also capable of in-flight refuelling.

JF-17 Thunder aircraft are scheduled to replace Pakistan's ageing fleet of French Mirages and Chinese F-7s and A-5s.

China is the main weapons supplier to Pakistan and has been assisting the only nuclear-armed Islamic country in undertaking big projects, including building nuclear power plants, seaports and highways.

Both neighbours have already jointly developed and produced the Karakoram 8 trainer aircraft.

"China has always stood by us and its undaunted support and willingness to go the extra mile for Pakistan has been a source of strength for the people of Pakistan," Gilani said.