ISSN 2330-717X

Sri Lanka To Buy China-Made JF-17 Fighter Aircraft – OpEd


Of late, Sri Lankan President Sirisena has announced, apart from the reconciliation efforts with Tamils and other minorities in the island country, also a few other important decisions of his government. One of those decisions is to make the country a bigger military  power — which may be possible in the immediate future. Another is, to fight corruption in the government and nation at large which is also not easy ambition considering that he really meant what he said.

One needs not elaborate on the issues because the issues are indeed tricky. Combating corruption no country has so far succeeded. Soviet Russia tried under Gorbachev and failed. Russia leader Putin has tried and stopped even talking about the subject matter now. China is now seriously fighting corruption without resolving the real causes of corruption in a communist society. India also tried and made it even more rampant than ever before. PM Manmohan Singh accelerated corruption activities, letting every minister and official to make as much money as they can dung his tenure.

It does not, however, mean corruption cannot be fought successfully. What is missing is the will and through plan for successful execution.

Of course, Sri Lanka is relatively a small country and the government can confidently launch anti-corruption program but only with dedicated, highly honest and sincere officials who can put people of nation above their personal or private affairs.

The issue of making Sri Lanka a strong nation in South Asia gradually is moot matter to consider. President Sirisena seems t0 be very serious on the subject.

China and Pakistan are wheeling and dealing in a big way to influence the Lankan government to strike the deal.

According to reports, Sri Lankan government is getting ready to buy the JF-17 multi-role fighter jet in a deal which promises at least four million dollars per jet as kickbacks to those who are pushing for this sale.

According to a report in the Sri Lanka-based web, a former air force chief and a big business wheeler-dealer are attempting to influence the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) to acquire the multi-role JF-17 ‘Fierce Dragon’ fighter aircraft that has been jointly developed by both China and Pakistan, at a fair price comparable with international combat aircraft manufacturers.

India says the jet under consideration is highly-flawed, explaining that the JF-17 will cost the SLAF a staggering USD 29 million, while the same aircraft can be purchased from a reputed Russian manufacturer at a cost ranging between USD 20 and USD 25 million.

Regional super power India blames Pakistan for the poor quality of Pakistani-Chinese aircrafts because it wants to sell its own equipment to Sri Lanka and other regional nations, like Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh Maldives, etc. The Indian government is keen to offer the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-manufactured multi-role Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ to Colombo. New Delhi’s strategists argue that the Sri Lankan government has to take into account the security-related concerns of the island nation and Indian equipment is best suited to Lankan conditions.

The SLAF is keen to purchase eight new fighter aircraft and does want to spend time overhauling its existing fleet of planes at a prohibitive cost of about USD three million per aircraft. Reports suggest that with pressure mounting on Sri Lanka against Pakistani-Chinese aircrafts, new President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to put off the purchase of the JF-17 fighter aircraft from Pakistan and go for a viable deal with Russia instead.

According to sources, former Air Force Commander Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody had visited Pakistan many times to hold discussions with the Pakistani Air Force Chief for purchasing JF-17 aircraft. The present Air Force Commander Gagan Bulathsinhala too has made a few visits to Pakistan for the same reason. Air Marshal Weerakkody, who was later posted to Pakistan as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner, continued to discuss the JF-17 purchase with the Pakistani officials.

The source further says that both China and Pakistan are well aware that the JF-17 has no takers in the international air force circuit, but middlemen in these two countries appear determined to promote this aircraft and get a commission of more than USD four million per aircraft.

Recalled to Sri Lanka after the fall of the Rajapaksa regime, Weerakkody is still a frequent visitor to the SLAF headquarters to get this deal through.

According to Indian source, the JF-17 is an indigenous product and a country like Sri Lanka is not in a position to invest such a huge amount on jet fighters whose qualities are largely unknown. The source said that there is no doubt that the SLAF is in dire need to purchase combat aircrafts.

The air force had failed to get the required sanction for the purchase of the jet fighters during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, and added that whatever has been purchased so far has been through shady deals with and from disreputable companies.

According to media reports, the Cabinet last week took a decision to put off the purchase of the Sino-Pakistan JF-17 fighter jet aircraft indefinitely to prevent possible India’s ill-feelings towards Sri Lanka. The present commanders of the three defence services and a representative from Sri Lanka Logistics are currently in Russia to discuss the purchase of the aircraft for the SLAF. However, SLAF spokesman has said that the air force is carrying out a due diligence study of potential fighter aircraft suppliers in the event the SLAF need to add to their existing fleet.

The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) presently has a fleet of Israeli Kfirs and Russian-made MiG-27s and India is eager to add its own make to the arsenals.

Unofficial sources have made it clear that the Sirisena government is all set to order for the JF-17 fighter aircraft by overlooking ‘friendly’ objections from New Delhi to the deal. Colombo is expected to take decisions about the procurement of military equipment in keeping with the actual requirements, cost effectiveness and reliability of the military goods.

However, the government must ensure that no corruption is involved by all concerned. Military corruption is common issue in India during the Manmohan and Modi era, through the defence minister denies any corruption in military procurements.

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Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.

11 thoughts on “Sri Lanka To Buy China-Made JF-17 Fighter Aircraft – OpEd

  • May 17, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Brilliant decision by Siri Lanka.They need a jet that can protect their nation and JF 17 Thunder will do it very well. It will give freedom of use and that too without political pressures or sanctions.

    HAL will nothing but a bird without wings and Siri Lanka cannot use it against any neighboring adversary.

    The decision really shows that the Lankans don’t care about the misinformation thrown to them by Indians to sell their sub standard equipment.

  • May 17, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Article is baused but good decision by Sri lanka

  • May 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Is this the priority at this juncture? Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!

  • May 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    In your wildest imaginarion, which neighbouring country poses a threat to Sri Lanka? Best to upgrade the Kfirs which will outperform anything else from Russia or China. PakIstan only designed the seat and paint scheme of JF17.

  • May 19, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Good decision. The JF-17 seems to be a proven weapon against militants as Pakistan is using it against the Taliban. As such it would be well suited to use against any future LTTE militias.

    Also, Pakistan proved to be a reliable defense partner and supplier to Sri Lanka – we will never forget that they supplied us with the military goods needed to defeat the LTTE. That was at a time when India-backed military sanctions prevented us from buying even a rifle in the international market.

  • May 19, 2016 at 2:35 am

    Sri Lanka should look to partner with Pakistan and China on such projects. That way we can escape the trap of becoming dependent of foreign military equipment and by extension influence in policy-making.

    It is no secret that India is still seething from the defeat of the Tamil terrorists sponsored by them. If we buy Russian or Western equipment, India will use its influence to stop our supplies again if they choose to sponsor another terrorist insurgency.

  • May 19, 2016 at 8:07 am

    A very good decision indeed. Lankans will curb this menace by using multi role JF17 which is cost effective and durable with requisite experiene of utilization in pak against forego sponsored militancy. Indian have a Heart!

  • May 20, 2016 at 2:27 am

    Lankans do not need the fighter aircrafts. For obvious reasons some interested persons in Lankan Airforce and some middle persons are pushing hard. Just last week IMF granted a billion dollars loan. Is this the way to spend it? The immediate need is to direct help to the flood victims.

  • May 24, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Sri Lanka has only one potential adversary, so the decision to buy from your powerful friend is the obvious choice, for long term strategic security of the Nation.

  • May 17, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    India is opposing JF17 sale for two reasons, firstly because this will improve the stature of Pakistan and China in Sri Lanka. Secondly, India wants to sell their own Tejas fighter to Sri Lanka.
    It must be remembered that Pakistan is already operating a large number of JF17s in Air Force. This aircraft is being extensively used in anti terrorist strikes with a great degree of success. On the contrary, Indian Tejas has been forced upon Indian Air Force which agreed to keep just a few to save the grace of Hindustan Aeronautics. Indian Navy has flatly refused to take Tejas and are now looking for foreign aircraft. Tejas is yet to be tested in operational conditions.
    Cost is another big factor. JF17 can be acquired below US $ 25 million while Tejas will cost over $40 Million. Support and training facilities are yet to be developed.
    Last but not the least, Indians have a history of stabbing Sri Lanka at the back and at the most critical moment. Pakistan and China have always been there to help even when the world opinion was against Sri Lanka.


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