China has started to hard-sell its J-10 fighter jet to Laos and Bangladesh to wean them off Russian aircraft such as the Yak-130 trainer/light fighter which both countries are considering.
The country has been trying to get Pakistan interested in the J-10 but Islamabad has shown little interest despite several photo-ops of Pakistani military leaders in the cockpit of the J-10 fighter jet.
When Laos purchased the Yakovlev Yak-130, it was believed that it would become the primary fighter jet in the air force. However, it seems like importing the Yakovlev Yak-130 was just a move to prepare for the purchase of new main fighter jets, which is likely to be China’s J-10C.
Laos is bordered by Thailand towards the west and Vietnam towards the east. Thailand currently has US F-16 fighter jets and Swedish JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets in the air force fleet; while Vietnamese Air Force is equipped with Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets from Russia and is reported to have purchased the latest Su-57 fighter jets. Royal Laos Air Force's main combat aircraft is the MiG-21. Considering the firepower of its neighbours the country, choosing the J-10 fourth generation aircraft to update its fleet seems like a plausible action.
Another potential buyer that China is pursuing is Bangladesh. With one of the two squadrons of 36 Rafale fighters that India has purchased being planned to be deployed near India's border with Bangladesh and coupled with the fact that the nation also lacks a strong backing from any other country, China is eager to sell its J-10 to Bangladesh. IN 2018, the Bangladeshi Air Force sent a delegation to conduct a field survey of the performance of the J-10C cementing its intentions to acquire the aircraft.
Even if Laos and Bangladesh were to sign the contracts to purchase China's J-10 fighter jets, their purchase volumes will be enough to equip only 1-2 squadrons (namely, 12-24 units of aircraft) considering the limited sizes of their air forces. Also, it is unlikely that the two countries will plan to build assembly lines or major overhauling facilities. Nevertheless, the export orders for J-10 fighter jets from the two countries are still very significant and are worth seizing for China, even though certain compromises over price and technology. Performance of the J-10 in the two countries will be crucial for the Chinese fighter jets to expand exports to foreign countries including Pakistan.
Chinese J-10 has a monetary edge over other popular aircraft in the international market. Europe’s Typhoon and Rafale fighters are expensive and have high maintenance costs (with a unit price of nearly US$100 million). Russian fighters lag behind in performance, and US fighter jets face high export barriers.
The J-10 is a lightweight multirole fighter aircraft capable of all-weather operation manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC). Its latest version, the J-10B is it is equipped with an indigenous active electronically scanned array fire-control radar and an infrared-homing PL-10 and new long-range PL-15 air-to-air missile (AAM). A J-10B aircraft equipped with a thrust-vectoring engine was demonstrated at the Air Show China in November 2018.
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