Pakistan held a Grand National Day military parade in the capital Islamabad on March 23. At the parade a large number of weapons developed by China or jointly developed by Pakistan and China could be seen in the parade. Pakistan is already the country with most Chinese weapons. Finding the weaponry familiar many netizens sighed, “the Pakistan army is fast becoming a second version of PLA”. These weapons and equipment are evidence of the China-Pakistan friendship.
6 fighter aircrafts to support Pakistan’s sky
Fighter aircrafts with a smoke tails behind them were the curtain raiser. Altogether there were five types of Chinese fixed-wing military aircrafts which participated in the parade, among which were J-7PG and J-7P which were developed by China independently and JF-17 “Thunder” (called Cheng Long in China) fighter aircraft which was jointly developed by China and Pakistan. In fact the J-17’s basic capabilities are similar to the F-16s currently used by Pakistan; they are even better than latter’s earlier models but they are substantially lower in price (than the F-16s). The aircraft’s take-off weight is equivalent to Indian LCA fighter aircraft but its development and manufacturing period is slightly longer. Presently it almost reached at a mature state, while the Indian LCA is yet not ready for combat use. Furthermore, Pakistan’s “eagle” aerobatics trainer aircraft K-8, jointly developed by China and Pakistan, is currently being exported to many countries.
This time two Pakistani Air Force Airborne Warning And Control Systems (AWACS) was also a part of the parade. Among them were the Early Warning Aircraft Systems ZDK-30—developed by China and Sweden’s Erieye, both of which were arranged in pairs. According to experts, China’s AWACS come under the high configuration model and it can use mechanical sweep scan mode. It is also capable of 360 degree scanning and is able of obtaining three coordinates—distance, speed and altitude accurately at the same time. “Erieye”, on the other hand, has an about 60-degree scanning dead angle both in head and tail and it cannot obtain information about the target’s altitude. It also has few commanding seats due to the comparatively small platform. In terms of probing distance, China’s AWACS can explore longer distances than Erieye.
Chinese made ZW-10 attack helicopters also appeared for the first time in Pakistan’s parade. In the past, Pakistan’s main gear was American “AH-1 Huey Cobra” attack helicopters but now they will most probably be replaced by ZW-10 helicopters. The participation of ZW-10 in Pakistan’s military parade may be a signal that China is ready to sell its most advanced weapon platform to its most reliable ally. In the past, China’s weapons export principle was that the most advanced equipment should be kept limited to country’s own troops; basically it would not be exported. This line of thinking led to China sending out Z-19E model as an export model because it was a comparatively low-end version of WZ-10. However, ZW-10’s appearance in Pakistan’s parade shows that China has started to sell its most advanced weapons platform to friends. This reasoning could also mean that China may offer an upgraded version of J-10 to Pakistan too.
Ground equipment becomes Pakistan army’s main strength
Among ground equipment, China made or Pakistan-China jointly made equipment has become army’s main strength. Tanks, which are the strongest for ground fights, are undoubtedly the core of ground artillery. The MBT-2000 (called Khalid Main Battle Tank in Pakistan) produced by China North Industries Corporation is the highest-level main battle tank in the Pakistani army today. Its performance is even better than the T-80UD MBT imported by Pakistan from Ukraine and the Russia-made T-90 MBT used by the Indian army. China’s anti-tank guided missile also holds an important position in the Pakistan army. China’s “Red Arrow-8” anti-tank guided missile has already been localized in Pakistan and is now called “Green Arrow”. It too was seen at the military parade.
China’s FM-90 short range air defense missile also appeared in the parade. Even though FM-90 is manufactured in China, but it is said that it shares quite a history with Pakistan. According to foreign media reports, in the 1980s China obtained a set of French “rattlesnake” short range surface to air missile system from Pakistan and later developed a “HQ-7” anti-aircraft defense system. This “HQ-7” became the foundation for the development of the export oriented FM-90 model. After undergoing several years of development, today’s FM-90 has completely transformed. With maximum range of 12 kilometers, not only can it tackle fighter aircrafts but it can also intercept cruise missiles. In fact, Pakistan also imports a large number of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft defense missiles developed by China but they were not fully revealed in the parade. It can be said, Chinese anti-aircraft defense systems have made Pakistan’s air space more secure. In addition to these, an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV) which is very similar to “CH-3” drone manufactured by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, also participated in the parade. It can be said that the ground equipment revealed in the parade is only a very small portion of the Chinese ground weapons present in the Pakistani side. A large amount of drones, rocket artillery and other equipment built by Chinese technology are also used by Pakistan’s military.
Display of China-Pakistan friendship
These Chinese weapons and equipment on display at this military parade were examples of China-Pakistan cooperation, it can also be said that these equipments are an evidence of China-Pakistan friendship. The most successful aircraft among these is the K-8 trainer aircraft, which is China’s most exported aircraft. It is not only exported to many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, its production line is even exported to Egypt. Its upgraded model is also used by Chinese troops.
Some of the equipment is made by Chinese enterprises according to Pakistan’s requirements and from Pakistan’s funding. It can be said that it is specially customized for Pakistan. The ZDK-03 AWACs, for example, are basically only used by Pakistani Air Force at the moment. “Cheng Long” was also first developed specifically for Pakistan. The characteristic feature of weapons like “Cheng Long” and ZDK-03 AWACs is that they are good quality and fairly priced, most suited to countries like Pakistan. Pakistan’s army has relationships with the western militaries and manufacturers and its requirements include advanced concepts and capabilities. Therefore, China-Pakistan cooperation in manufacturing weapons can help Chinese manufacturers to expand their horizon. By being a picky customer, Pakistan can help China in improving the quality and reliability of weapons produced by Chinese manufacturers. Besides, Pakistan also has some influence among Arab countries which can help in expanding the scope of Chinese weapons export.