Royal Saudi AF may replace the Tornado fighter with Chengdu J-10
With reports claiming that Egypt is set to hold talks next week in Malaysia for the acquisition of 12 J-10C fighter jets, the same source, Tactical Report, says Saudi Arabia is also showing interest in the Chinese fighter jet. This is the second Middle Eastern country that is said to be interested in buying the Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon.
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According to sources, in the coming years, Riyadh will begin to phase out the outdated Panavia Tornado multi-role fighter jet. The kingdom has about 80 units of this combat aircraft, developed jointly between Italy and Great Britain. Currently, the backbone of the Royal Saudi Air Force [RSAF] is about 200 F-15S/SA Strike Eagles, 60 F-15C Eagle, 21 F-15D Eagle, and 72 Eurofighter Typhoons.
The acquisition of the Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon is said to be in an overall package that includes additional armaments, mostly drones. The Sky Saker FX80 drone models, the CR500 vertical take-off and landing [VTOL] drone, the Cruise Dragon 5 and 10 loitering munitions, and the HQ-17 short-range air defense system are mentioned.
Experts say such a purchase is expected and entirely possible after Riyadh and Beijing have strongly begun to strengthen their relationship in recent months since the start of the year. What’s more, Beijing agreed to buy oil from the Middle Eastern kingdom, while Saudi Arabia agreed to accept the Chinese yuan in those deals.
Trade relations between the two countries go back even further. China and Saudi Arabia have agreed to build a joint production line at a new drone manufacturing plant inside the Saudi Kingdom. Last but not least, the kingdom’s 5G telecommunications network was built by China’s Huawei.
Despite public presentations of good relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, trade relations, especially in the oil industry, are not so “rosy”. Riyadh expects sanctions from Washington. The Saudis refuse to change their policies on oil production to sell cheaper to the West.
Saudi Arabia is ready to respond to any Western sanction with the purchase of Chinese goods and, most importantly, Chinese weapons. It is for this reason that Riyadh will seek to strengthen its defense capabilities. Beijing’s diplomacy in recent months in the Middle East not only worries Washington, but it also risks damaging the US dollar.
Beijing was able to “shake hands” between Saudis and Iranians, and a little later to improve relations between the Arab world and Syria, returning Syria to the Arab League. Catching up in military production to the US and Russia over the past decade, China will try to gain “equal rights” in a region long controlled by Washington.
Little known fact, but Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of Western arms in the world. Western interests, largely affecting the American, British, and French, could seriously suffer a blow from China, and this could become a turning point for international politics.
Saudi Arabia is not the only country in the region interested in Chinese military equipment. BulgarianMilitary.com reported just a day ago that Egypt, another major arms consumer, will sit down at the negotiating table with China to purchase at least 12 J-10C fighter jets.
Cairo will most likely want to replace the failed deal with Moscow and the acquisition of Su-35 fighters that are already on their way to Iran. Egypt, as a consumer of Soviet [in the past Western] arms, is having difficulty maintaining its Soviet-made platforms because of the war in Ukraine. Moscow cannot currently guarantee the delivery of equipment and spare parts to its partners around the world. The entire military budget and production are sent to the front line.
So, the J-10C is a perfectly suitable alternative for Egypt, as it turns out for Saudi Arabia. This aircraft is probably the most powerful single-engine fighter in the world, and looking at its characteristics, only the lack of stealth function stops it from ranking on a par with the American flagship F-35.
The J-10C is generation 4++ and in China during training or military exercises, it has always defeated the larger J-16 and the Russian Su-35 in missions.
Reports indicate that Riyadh will also want to replace the aging F-15s delivered decades ago by the US. A Chinese platform is also being discussed as a potential replacement, but this time the FC-31 stealth fighter. A Chinese aircraft is actually already flying over the kingdom. This is an L-15 bought for training purposes. It was this aircraft that showed the Saudis that China’s air combat technology was highly advanced. Isn’t the L-15 the reason Riyadh is interested in the J-10C?
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