By News Desk
China’s air force on Saturday began joint training exercises with that of Pakistan, China’s defence ministry said, as the two nations’ militaries strengthen operational ties. The military drill, code-named “Shaheen (Eagle)-5” began on April 9 in Pakistan and will continue till April 30.
“China’s Air Force hopes to widen the scope of cooperation and dialogue with all countries and regions,” the Chinese Ministry of Defence statement said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
As far as the composition of participating units, no details were offered by Pakistani or Chinese side. Considering the respective components from the both sides in the previous exercises it is prudent that both sides will deploy front-line fighters along with force multipliers (AWACS and Air Refuelers). The exercise will continue next three weeks.
Last year’s Shaheen-4, featured fourth-generation fighter jets and bombers as well as airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The PAF alone participated with three different types of frontline fighter aircraft from different squadrons (likely the JF-17 Thunder, Dassault Mirage III/5, and F7 PG fighter aircraft).
The PLAAF and PAF have held Shaheen series exercises on regular basis since March 2011. The second training exercise took place in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in western China in September 2013, the third was held in Punjab, Pakistan, in May 2014.
Speaking to Reuters, the PAF second-in-command, Air-Vice Marshal Muhammad Ashfaque Arain, said that the PAF heavily relies on its fleet of around 70 U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets in its anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan. Whether any F-16 aircraft will participate in the training exercise is unknown. In February, the United States finally approved a possible of eight additional F-16 Block-52 fighters to Pakistan in a deal valued at $699 million.
Earlier, this Monday, the PAF also inducted 16 upgraded JF-17 Thunder Block II combat aircraft during a handover ceremony in Kamra, also known as Aviation City, the centre of aircraft manufacturing in Pakistan. And now the chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman has said that Pakistan is going to produce 24 JF-17 Thunder fighters in 2016 after achieving the milestone of producing 16 in 2015.