US-Pakistan F-16 Deal: Indian EAM Jaishankar Throws a Tantrum

“You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things," said Indian External Affairs Minister Subramanian Jaishankar to his American hosts in Washington. He was lashing out at the United States for the State Department's explanation for the $450 million F-16 "sustainment" package sale to Pakistan. Earlier,  the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in an announcement: 

“This proposed sale ($450 million F-16 package) will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by allowing Pakistan to retain interoperability with US and partner forces in ongoing counter-terrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.” The US State Department spokesman Ned Price talked about "shared values" and "shared interests" of his country with both India and Pakistan. He also recommended that "these two neighbors have relations with one another that are as constructive as can be possible".   

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken (L), Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar

Responding to Jaishankar's outburst, the US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “We don’t view our relationship with Pakistan, and … our relationship with India as in relation to one another. These are both partners of ours with different points of emphasis in each. We look at both as partners, because we do have in many cases shared values. We do have in many cases shared interests. And the relationship we have with India stands on its own. The relationship we have with Pakistan stands on its own. We also want to do everything we can to see to it that these neighbors have relations with one another that are as constructive as can be possible. And so that’s another point of emphasis.”

President Joe Biden & First Lady Jill with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the UN HQ

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently attended a summit meeting of the China-Russia sponsored Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. India is a full member of this alliance which has been created to counter the US dominance in Asia. At the same time, New Delhi has also joined QUAD, a group of 4 nations (Australia, India, Japan and US) formed by the United States  to counter China's rise. Simultaneous membership of these two competing alliances is raising serious questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's real intentions and trustworthiness. It appears that there is an Indian policy shift from "non-alignment" to "all-alignment".

Writing an Op Ed for The Indian Express about Jaishankar's fit of anger, Indian journalist Nirupama Subramanian put it in the following words: “As Delhi demonstrates “strategic autonomy” to engage with every side — Quad one week, and Russia and China the next at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand — and work around Western sanctions to buy oil from Russia, and keep friends in all camps, it may have to come to terms that others in world play the same game.”

US Visa Appointment Wait Time. Source: US State Department

Jaishankar also raised the issue of long appointment wait times for Indians seeking visas to come to the United States. "In India, there are families unable to meet; students waiting for a long time. So it is a serious problem. But, I'm confident that, with the sincerity Secretary Blinken showed, they would address this, and with any support that we can provide, we hope things will improve," he said.  Secretary Anthony Blinken said in response, "We had constraints from COVID about the number of people we could have in our embassies at any one time etc. We are now building back very determined really from that surging resources. We have a plan when it comes to India to address the backlog of visas that have built up. I think you'll see that play out in the coming months."

US Visa Appointment Wait Time. Source: US State Department

Currently, the waiting period for Indian applicants in  New Delhi is 444 calendar days for student/exchange visitor visas, 758 calendar days for visitor visas and 354 calendar days for all other non-immigrant visas. 
The appointment waiting period for Pakistani applicants in Islamabad is one calendar day for student/exchange visitor visas, 450 calendar days for visitor and one calendar day for all other non-immigrant visas.  For the Chinese applicants in Beijing it is two calendar days for student/exchange visitor and students visas and three calendar days for all other non-immigrant visas. 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on September 30, 2022 at 4:30pm

Pakistan’s #flood crisis could be an opportunity for real change. Devastating floods have also hit #Florida. Considering the global nature of #climate challenge, at some point #US & #Pakistan must find the courage to work together on "Green Marshall Plan"

This week, Americans are understandably focused on the hurricane-related flooding in Florida, which is causing tragedy for thousands. Yet there is little attention in the United States to the fact that Pakistan has been flooded since mid-June, a catastrophe that is still causing unspeakable suffering for tens of millions.

Both of these crises owe much to the same phenomenon — climate change. But aside from some limited aid, there’s scant U.S.-Pakistan cooperation on long-term solutions. That has to change, according to Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was in the United States this week pitching his proposal for a “Green Marshall Plan.” In meetings with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres and others, Zardari argued for a way those countries most responsible for climate change can help those countries most affected — and, in turn, help themselves.

It’s a big idea, and there are reasons for skepticism. But considering the global nature of the climate challenge, at some point the United States and Pakistan must find the courage to work together. In the process, the two countries might find a way back to being true allies, which would benefit both sides and balance China’s rising influence in the South Asia region.

“We have to find the opportunity in this crisis,” Zardari told me. “There are two ways of us going forward. We can do this dirtier, badly, in a way that will be worse for us and worse for the environment, or we can try to build back better in a greener, more climate-resilient manner.”

Zardari’s call for a “Green Marshall Plan” is meant to evoke America’s historical penchant for pursuing its enlightened self-interest. The idea also plays into President Biden’s own Build Back Better World concept. The theory is that Western government support for private-sector investment in climate-resilient, ecologically sustainable infrastructure in Pakistan would redound to the benefit of Western industry and help mitigate the future climate-related crises that are sure to come.

Florida will have several days of rain. In Pakistan, it rained for more than three months, submerging one-third of the country in a body of water than can be seen from space. The high floodwaters have created a cascade of problems, devastating Pakistan’s agriculture, manufacturing, trade and public health sectors.

Floods are almost a perennial occurrence in Pakistan, but this year’s continuing disaster is uniquely cataclysmic, impacting more than 33 million people (more than Florida’s entire population), including 16 million children and more than 600,000 pregnant women, according to the United Nations.

The flood and its aftereffects also risk throwing Pakistan right back into the economic crisis it was clawing its way out of. Pakistan was already on the hook to pay back $1 billion of the $10 billion it owes the Paris Club by the end of this year. Islamabad also owes some $30 billion to China. Now the country is being forced to borrow billions more to deal with the current situation.

The real question, Zardari said, is not whether the international community will come through with short-term aid and debt relief. The challenge is for the world to realize that Pakistan’s flood crisis won’t be the last or the worst, meaning the international response must take a far broader view.

In a world where covid-19, the Russia-Ukraine war and the worldwide economic slowdown are commanding the attention of policymakers in Western capitals, the bandwidth for new and expensive ideas is narrow. Zardari knows it’s a tough sell.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 30, 2022 at 4:30pm

Pakistan’s #flood crisis could be an opportunity for real change. Devastating floods have also hit #Florida. Considering the global nature of #climate challenge, at some point #US & #Pakistan must find the courage to work together on "Green Marshall Plan"

In a world where covid-19, the Russia-Ukraine war and the worldwide economic slowdown are commanding the attention of policymakers in Western capitals, the bandwidth for new and expensive ideas is narrow. Zardari knows it’s a tough sell.

“I understand that the concept of a Green Marshall Plan might not have many players. But that doesn’t change the fact that I believe it genuinely is the solution,” he said. “We have to pause our geopolitical differences and unite to face this existential threat to mankind.”

The concept of investing in green infrastructure in a coordinated, global way is not new; but under the current plans, it’s not happening. Global promises to invest $100 billion in the Green Climate Fund for developing countries by 2020 have been broken.

And while humanitarian aid is not primarily about strategic competition, it is worth noting that China has its own project called the Green Silk Road, and that Beijing is pushing propaganda in Pakistan claiming it is more generous than the United States (which is not true). The need to counter Chinese influence was a big reason the White House hosted leaders of 14 Pacific Island nations this week, all of which are suffering disproportionately from climate change.

In Washington, Pakistan has become something of a pariah, following years of disagreements over Afghanistan and other issues. But the end of that war provides an opening for a rethink. To be sure, Pakistan’s democracy looks shaky at times — but then again, so does America’s. The two allies still share many long-term interests, and saving the planet should be at the top of the list.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 30, 2022 at 7:52pm

A day after #India EAM Subramanian #Jaishankar's visit to #Washington, #US imposes #sanction against #Indian company for ‘clandestine’ #Iran #oil purchases. It played a critical role in concealing the origin of the Iranian shipments for #trade.

In the first such move against oil shipments to India, the U.S. Treasury department announced it had imposed sanctions against a Mumbai based petrochemical company amongst several entities accused of selling Iranian petroleum products.

The company, Mumbai based Tibalaji in particular that was accused purchasing shipments that were then sent to China, is the first Indian entity to face the U.S. designation under unilateral sanctions passed in 2018-19, after the U.S. Trump administration’s decision to walk out of the nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. While India has officially refused to endorse the “unilateral sanctions” of the U.S., the Modi government agreed to end all oil imports from Iran in 2019, that made up about 11% of India’s intake, rather than face the sanctions.

Announcing the move on Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it had sanctioned the “international network of companies” that were involved in the sale of “hundreds of millions of dollars” worth Iranian petrochemical products to South Asia and East Asia.

“Today’s action targets Iranian brokers and several front companies in the UAE, Hong Kong, and India that have facilitated financial transfers and shipping of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products,” the treasury department said, accusing the sanctioned companies of “concealing the origin” of the shipments from Iran.

“India-based petrochemical company Tibalaji Petrochem Private Limited has purchased millions of dollars’ worth of Triliance-brokered petrochemical products, including methanol and base oil, for onward shipment to China,” the Treasury statement added, explaining that any U.S.-based assets owned by the sanctioned entities in the U.S. will be blocked, while personnel dealing with the Iranian shipments would also face “enforcement action”.

The U.S. claimed that the Indian company had worked with sanctioned entities like Triliance, a petroleum and petrochemical brokerage firm, as well as Iran Chemical Industries Investment Company and Middle East Kimiya Pars Co., for oil orders which were “ultimately shipped to India”.

Neither the Ministry of External Affairs, nor Tibalaji Petrochemicals responded to requests for a comment on the U.S. decision, that came a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar concluded his visit to the U.S., where he met several senior officials including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Iranian embassy said it had no knowledge of any Indian company that was “registered to deal with such businesses”. However, a diplomat familiar with the issue said that the U.S. move was “hostile”, and called the sanctions “illegal”. The diplomat said, “Iran has never taken permission from the U.S. and accordingly it will adopt any necessary measure to ensure its legal rights and national interests.”

“Today we took further actions to disrupt efforts to evade sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products,” Mr. Blinken tweeted. When asked, neither the MEA nor U.S. officials commented on whether Mr. Blinken had discussed the impending sanctions with Mr. Jaishankar in Washington.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 1, 2022 at 7:24am

China and India abstained on a vote to condemn Russia's annexation of Ukraine's land just weeks after Putin acknowledged their concerns about the war

China and India, key partners to Russia, have recently expressed concerns to Putin about the war.
Putin on Friday declared four regions of Ukraine part of Russia, a move rejected by the West.
In a UN vote condemning the annexation as illegal, China and India both abstained.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 2, 2022 at 7:37am

Why India’s protest over US-Pakistan F-16 deal is a storm in a teacup

Pakistan’s old F-16s pose no threat to India, given their use is restricted to counterterrorism efforts within its borders and are considered inferior to the newer JF-17s, jointly developed with China
The deal to maintain the F-16s may well be a response to the resurgence in terrorism spilling over from Afghanistan after the US withdrawal
India and Pakistan have been engaged in yet more angry exchanges of late – but, this time, on a matter other than the routine and threadbare allegations of sponsoring terrorism in each other’s territories.
The latest episode kicked off on September 7, when the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency said it was considering a US$450 million military deal with Pakistan to upgrade its F-16 fighter jet programme, including the engines, electronic warfare and other related hardware, software and spare parts.
The deal, since approved, covers the technical maintenance and overhauling of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet, which is now more than three decades old. Few analysts expected it to turn into a rancorous diplomatic scuffle between New Delhi and Islamabad.
But the matter was abruptly pushed into the limelight when Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar responded caustically to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks on the Pakistan arms deal.
Blinken had said the US deal was part of an initiative to boost Pakistan’s “capability to deal with terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan or from the region”.
Jaishankar, at an unofficial event in Washington, said: “For someone to say, ‘I am doing this because it is all counterterrorism content’ … you are not fooling anybody by saying these things.”
To no one’s surprise, Jaishankar’s remarks sparked a severe reaction from Islamabad and clarification from Blinken, who reasserted categorically that the package did not include any new capabilities, weapons or munitions.
Three key points are noteworthy, regardless of the ongoing arguments between India and Pakistan, that make Jaishankar’s statement look more like habitual rhetoric than genuine concern. First, since the 1980s when the United States handed over the first batch of F-16s to Pakistan, none has been used in a war or an operation against any country, including India.
Indeed, the F-16s have only ever been deployed in counterterrorism operations within the country. And the only time they have been used extensively by the Pakistan Air Force has been against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists in the volatile Swat Valley region bordering Afghanistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 2, 2022 at 7:37am

Why India’s protest over US-Pakistan F-16 deal is a storm in a teacup

Before 2014, the Pakistani government exerted little control in the Swat Valley and its adjacent areas, which were in the hands of the TPP and other militant groups, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Haqqani network. With an alliance of these groups ruling the area, almost a million residents were forced to move to other parts of Pakistan.
In July 2014, Pakistan’s army and air force jointly launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a massive anti-terrorism campaign to free the Swat valley and surrounding area from control of the militants.
Due to the region’s mountainous geography, it would have been practically impossible for the ground forces to complete the task without aerial support to attack the terrorist hideouts. And the F-16 Falcons, the only advanced fighter jets in the air force at that time, were more than capable of precision attacks on the militants’ base camps.
Thus, the F-16s played a major role in the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, and the restoration of control of the region by the Pakistani government.
In 2021, however, with the arrival of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the militant groups began to penetrate the Swat valley, Bajaur, Mohmand and North Waziristan areas again and set about relaunching their terrorist activities.
In the past six months, more than 250 terrorist attacks carried out by the TTP have been reported in the area. And, indeed, perhaps it is this resurgence of the TTP and terrorist-related activities that has led the Biden administration to agree to the deal to maintain Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. New Delhi is also well aware that Pakistan needs refurbished F-16s to tackle terrorism in this part of the country.
The second point is that Pakistan’s air force is no longer dependent on F-16s and has been shifting its operational load to its fleet of JF-17 Thunders – fighter jets jointly developed by China and Pakistan. Today, Pakistan has an operational fleet of 134 JF-17s, compared with just 75 F-16s.
From the air force’s perspective, and given its current needs, the JF-17 is far superior and its reliance on them will only increase. The US deal to provide maintenance support for the ageing F-16 fleet will not render them any more of a threat to India.
Finally, Islamabad and Washington have specifically agreed that the F-16s cannot be used for any offensive purpose outside Pakistan’s airspace.
So India has nothing to worry about with this latest maintenance deal. If anything, New Delhi should perhaps be more concerned about the growing cooperation between Pakistan and China on the JF-17, which is being continuously improved by joint research and development teams.
India’s foreign minister knows very well that his protests over the US package are merely part of diplomatic formalities, and that he is unlikely to receive a positive response from the Biden administration – which is more concerned about containing the mess it left behind following the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is now once again spilling over into northern Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 2, 2022 at 4:40pm

US warns India on dealing with Russia: “Pakistan is Plan B”
October 02, 2022 Wajahat S. Khan

After years of favoring New Delhi, the US is now back to balancing between India and Pakistan.

The decade-long deterioration of ties with Islamabad, propelled by Pakistan’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan and tilt toward China, had shaped Washington’s conventional thinking into a neat binary: that a democratic, anti-China India is ‘in’ and an autocratic, pro-China Pakistan is ‘out’ of the American camp.

That’s no longer the case in America’s response to India’s consistent hedging and betting on Russia, as well as Pakistan’s diplomatic overtures and counterterrorism cooperation. Indeed, the future of US positioning in South Asia seems to be shifting, as Washington resumes playing ball with both nuclear-armed rivals like it’s done for decades.

America’s pal, but Russia’s BFF. On Saturday, India abstained from voting for a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution slamming Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. This wasn’t the first time the Indians have refused to back the Americans — every UN resolution tabled against Russian aggression in Ukraine since the beginning of the war has seen India walk away from the crime scene.

For India watchers who acknowledge New Delhi’s stated policy of strategic autonomy — basically a we-will-do-the-right-thing-but-in-our-own-way approach to a values-based order — the latest abstention was a disappointment, coming just days after PM Narendra Modi was praised by Washington for lecturing Vladimir Putin about this not being “an era of war.”

Although Indian diplomats insist that dialogue is the only answer to settling disputes, Modi’s government is now being criticized even at home for speaking from both sides of its mouth, especially as the war takes on a nuclear dimension.

The frustration is premised on a contradiction. Though it is still counted as a strategic partner of the US and an important teammate on the Quad, India’s decades-long defense ties with Moscow continue to thrive.

The Indians are shoring up the Russian economy by buying more fossil fuels (albeit at steep discounts). This year, oil imports are up thirty-fold from 2021, and coal purchases have quadrupled. Meanwhile, the Indians remain Moscow’s biggest arms customer and continue buying sophisticated Russian weapons despite the risk of triggering US sanctions.

This attitude of sacrifice-rules-for-money by India shows that “since Russia invaded Ukraine, Modi and his government have become ultra-realist on foreign policy,” says Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation.

The Indians, he explains, “have refused to condemn Russian aggression and its undermining of the rules-based international order, which New Delhi claims to uphold along with like-minded democratic states,” he said. Rather, India has prioritized discounted Russian oil — a business over values approach — which doesn't say much about India’s commitment to the rules-based system that it claims to support.

Pakistan as Plan B? But Washington isn’t just sitting pretty watching India play both sides. Responding to New Delhi’s hedging through its own, the US is gearing up to balance the military relationship with Islamabad.

After suspending all military aid in 2018 due to Pakistan’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, the US State Department reversed course last month, resuming critical military assistance to Islamabad. India, of course, is up in arms. After all, the F-16 fighter-bomber — which the Americans are servicing for the Pakistanis — was used to shoot down at least one Indian Air Force MiG-21 in 2019.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 2, 2022 at 4:40pm

US warns India on dealing with Russia: “Pakistan is Plan B”
October 02, 2022 Wajahat S. Khan

While the State Department has pushed back against India’s protests by saying it values its relations with both sides, Pakistan seems to have been let out of Washington’s doghouse. Last week, State fêted Pakistan’s foreign minister for a week-long sojourn, topped with a ceremony commemorating 75 years of diplomatic ties at the Museum of American Diplomacy. (His Indian counterpart — who was in town around the same time complaining about the Pakistani weapons deal — was also given the royal treatment, with a dinner at Blinken’s home.)

As far as the Pakistanis are concerned, the boys are back in town. This week, the Pentagon is hosting Pakistan’s all-powerful army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who played a crucial role in the ousting of former prime minister Imran Khan, an anti-American populist. On Gen. Bajwa’s agenda: Pakistani support for Washington’s over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, as well as grappling with the Taliban, ISIS-K and al-Qaida.

“The US seems to be finally recognizing that despite the full-throated pronouncements from New Delhi about a rules-based international order, India’s need for cheap Russian oil and Russian weapons override everything else,” says Uzair Younis, director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Given this context, he adds, Washington is finally realizing that it must also pursue “a parallel diplomatic path with Pakistan, especially given that New Delhi is unlikely to be weaned off its addiction to Russian energy and weapons any time soon.”

However, India will remain important for America. Surely, this maneuvering hasn’t ruptured the proximity between Washington and New Delhi – China remains their common rival, after all — but it is being seen as a tactical response to India’s dealing with the Russians.

Plus, after years of increasing dependency on China, the Pakistanis are only too eager to balance their interests with Washington, but only till the Chinese come back to them with a better offer for their rentier state.

Also, the resumption of US military aid to Pakistan — still paltry compared to America’s broad defense, economic and tech ties with India — has not disturbed India’s standing as a “strategic partner,” Still, since Washington’s recent moves have clearly irked New Delhi, are they going to reset US priorities in South Asia?

“One of the enduring challenges for the US-India relationship is that each country insists on maintaining cordial ties with the other’s key rival,” says Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center.

This problem appeared to be working itself out in recent years, as India reduced its share of Russian arms imports and the US cut off security aid to Pakistan. But now we are seeing a return to what Kugelman calls the “old normal” — India reasserting its friendship with Russia and the US restarting security ties with Pakistan.

“At the end of the day, neither New Delhi nor Washington are willing to let go of these longstanding relationships,” he explains.

Still, what the Americans are doing to the Indians — a diplomatic tit-for-tat, really — makes the long-term trajectory of India-Russia and US-Pakistan relations more unsettled than that of US-India relations.

For Kugmelman, “they’re still realities in the here and now. It’s little more than a nuisance for US-India relations, but a nuisance nonetheless.”

Bottom line: The Pakistanis might be back in play in Washington, but India’s not getting on any American blacklist anytime soon. Regardless, the US has put on its Great Power suit, and sent New Delhi a bill about the cost of doing business with the Russians.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 2, 2022 at 9:43pm

JF-17 Block 3 vs. F-16C: How Pakistan’s New Fighter Will Leave the American Fighting Falcon Far Behind

With the JF-17 Block 3 fighter unveiled in December 2019, and expected to enter service from around 2022, the aircraft will outperform all existing Pakistani fighters, the F-16C included, by a considerable margin. While the new aircraft has a new engine and makes more use of light composite materials for a superior flight performance, including the ability to exceed Mach 2 speeds, the platform’s most significant improvements are arguably those made to its beyond visual range capabilities. The JF-17 Block 3’s avionics are nothing less than state of the art, with a heads up display, a full glass cockpit and new single panel multi functional display, and the aircraft also integrates a powerful AESA radar - possibly the KLJ-7A. An AESA radar will be key to the JF-17 Block 3’s performance, and its sophistication will compensate for the relatively small size of the radar the fighter can accommodate and provide the situational awareness needed to make effective use of longer ranged munitions such as the PL-15 air to air missile. This missile has approximately double the range of the AIM-120C used by the F-16C - approximately 200km where the AIM-120 is restricted to around 105km. The PL-15 has been integrated onto China’s new generation of fighters which all integrate AESA radars, the J-20, J-16, and J-10C, and has reportedly begun integration onto older designs such as the J-11B.

Advantages of integrating an AESA radar not only allows the JF-17 Block 3 to detect targets at far longer ranges, and to track and lock onto more targets simultaneously, but its is also less prone to jamming and leaves a far lower radar signature - meaning it is both more reliable and makes the fighter more difficult to detect. Alongside state of the art Chinese electronic warfare systems, and what appears to be a radar cross section reducing profile, a combination of modern avionics, and AESA radar and PL-15 missiles will make the JF-17 Block 3 an extremely lethal fighter for beyond visual range combat considerably more capable than any fighter currently in Pakistani service including the F-16. While some more sophisticated variants of the F-16 can boast capabilities which rival the JF-17 Block 3, namely the F-16E and F-2, only two countries operate these aircraft which have not been made available to the vast majority of clients. Compared to the JF-17 Block 3, the F-16C is expected to have a slower speed, lower sortie rate, lower operational altitude, poorer situational awareness and electronic warfare capabilities, inferior anti shipping capabilities and a considerably lower air to air engagement range. The JF-17 Block 3 is thus expected to form the elite of the Pakistani fleet, and have considerable export success to a range of interested clients such as Egypt and Myanmar. A more ambitious light fighter project is currently under way to succeed the JF-17 Block 3, the Project AZM stealth fighter program, which is also being pursued jointly by China and Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 2, 2022 at 9:43pm

Nigerian Air Force using targeting pod with JF-17
by Jack Iraboh

The Aselpod is almost certainly in service with the Nigerian Air Force. (Aselsan)

A Nigerian Air Force (NAF) JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter has been seen carrying what is almost certainly an Aselpod targeting pod made by Turkish company Aselsan.

A short clip posted on social media on 14 August showed a Nigerian JF-17 with the number 720 taxiing with a dark grey pod on its centreline hardpoint.

Earlier this year, a photograph emerged showing a man next to a JF-17 carrying a targeting pod with an air intake on its starboard side that looked more like the one on the Aselpod than the smaller intakes on the Chinese WMD-7 targeting pod that has also been integrated with the aircraft.

The man, evidently not Nigerian, wore a badge with the Pakistani flag and what appeared to be ‘Aselpod' written on it. However, his cap had the name of the NAF's 131 Engineering Group on it, indicating he was helping that unit with the new pod.

Aselsan integrated the Aselpod on the Pakistan Air Force's JF-17s under a contract that was first reported in 2017. The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex delivered the three JF-17s ordered by the NAF in March 2021.

The photograph also showed a bomb with a laser-guidance kit on one of the JF-17's wings. This could be an Mk 82 fitted with a GBU-12 Paveway II kit as the United States approved the sale of these weapons to Nigeria along with the 12 A-29 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft that were delivered to the NAF in 2021.


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