Russia may have vowed not to sell its arms to Pakistan, but India’s arch rival is getting some key Russian/Soviet military equipment anyway, surreptitiously through China, thereby jeopardising New Delhi’s defence confidentiality.
One example of such Chinese arms sales, though they do not sell full equipment of Russian origin, is the aeroengines for Pakistan’s JF-17 combat aircraft for which Russia too has given its consent, much to India’s chagrin.
China is jointly developing the JF-17 lightweight combat planes with Pakistan and has provided the Russian-origin RD-93 aeroengines, an upgrade of the MiG-29 combat plane’s RD-33 aeroengines, to Islamabad for the purpose. The Klimov RD-93 is a turbojet engine and Pakistan intends to get around 150 of these engines for the JF-17s.
In August 2007, Russia signed a contract for re-export of 150 of the engines from China to Pakistan for the JF-17, though they had till then denied any such plans.
With 150 engines now available to Pakistan, it could easily match India’s three-squadron MiG-29 fleet, which are based facing the Pakistani borders in Adampur airbase. Thus, the JF-17s will be the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) counter to India’s 65-plane MiG-29s fleet. India had bought the MiG-29s from the erstwhile Soviet Union in the late 1980s and has now signed a fresh agreement with Russia for upgrade of these planes.
With military sales such as the JF-17s and its RD-93 engines, no wonder China has now emerged as the world’s fifth largest arms exporter for the five-year period from 2008-2012 from being the world’s largest importer of arms till about five years ago. “China, however, does not sell any whole military equipment of Russian origin. The Chinese military systems given to Pakistan do have some parts that are of Russian origin,” a senior Indian military officer, a keen China watcher, said.
According to a March 2013 report from Stockholm-based SIPRI, an international military think-tank, China’s arms exports in 2008-2012 grew by 162 per cent compared to the previous five years, of which 55 per cent were for Pakistan alone.
Among the large outstanding and planned orders from Pakistan are combat planes, submarines and frigates, most of which have equipment on board that are either purchases made from Russia or upgrades of Soviet/Russian-origin systems.
China has over the last five decades exploited the technology and the industry left behind by the Soviets/Russian in the wake of the bitter parting of ways by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and People’s Republic of China’s Mao Zedong in the 1960s.
on the radar
Another key Soviet-origin equipment that has been passed on to Pakistan by China is the ZDK-03 Karakoram Eagle Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) radar. Though the sensor itself is of Chinese origin, the Y-8 plane, atop which the radar is integrated, is modelled on the technology of the An-12 transport aircraft of Soviet-origin.
China has now provided Pakistan with four of these aircraft-mounted radars. China has been building the An-12 plane after it obtained licence and the technology from the then Soviet Union in the 1960s. India had operated the An-12 four-engine turboprop aircraft since 1961 to the mid-1990s.
China has aided and built four new Frigates of the Zulfiquar class for Pakistan, also known as the F-22P frigates, the last of which was delivered in April this year. But the catch is some of the weapons systems on board these four frigates are of Russian origin. In particular, the 76.2 mm calibre main gun is a Chinese development of the Russian AK-176M. The main difference between the Chinese variant and the Russian original equipment is the re-designed stealthy turret to reduce radar cross-section. The gun is designed to engage ships, aircraft and anti-ship missiles. The Russian gun finds a place on board several of the Russian-origin Indian warships.
Tanks for battle
Pakistan’s Al Khalid and Al Zarrar main battle tanks are joint developments with China, which provided its Soviet-origin technology to its closest Asian neighbour for its latest battle tanks in the beginning of the 1990s. The two Pakistan tanks are based on the Chinese Type 90-II tanks, which borrowed heavily from the original Soviet design of T-54/55 tanks.
Pakistan currently operates around 300 of the Al Kahlids and 500 Al Zarrar tanks in its fleet. India had operated around 1,000 of the T-55 tanks for mostly from the 1960s and began retiring them only in 2011 with the induction of the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tanks.
The Baktar Shikan anti-tank guided missile of the Pakistani armed forces is a technology gifted by China, drawing from its Red Arrow ATGMs. These missile are based on the Soviet-origin 9K11 Malyutka ATGMs, which bear the NATO codename AT-3 Sagger, a manual command to line-of-sight wire-guided ATGM. India had operated these ATGMs for long and is now using better Russian-origin ATGMs such as Milan and Konkurs.