As these words appear on your screen, fighter jets of the Pakistan Air Force are flying through the Chinese air space while conducting the joint training exercises Shaheen VI with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLAAF). The exercises have been launched on Thursday and will carry on till September 27.
The Shaheen series of exercises between Pakistan and China – the two closest strategic and defense partners, were launched in March 2011. The series of exercises has since evolved through five major sessions.
It has been reported by the China’s state news agency, Xinhua, that a wide range of aerial assets and troops, including Shenyang J-11 twin-engine multirole fighters, Xian JH-7 fighter-bombers, KJ-200 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, and surface-to-air missile crews and radar operators are taking part in the exercises from the Chinese front. It has also been reported that the Chinese navy’s aviation troops are participating in the training as well.
Shen Jinke, spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, informed the state news agency that Pakistan has sent JF-17 Thunder fighter jets and early warning aircraft to join the exercises.
It is relevant to mention here that the FC-1 Xiaolong aircraft, commonly known as the JF-17 Thunder is a single-engine, lightweight, and multi-role fighter jet. It has been co-developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry group. The only current operator of the aircraft is the Pakistan Air Force.