Hong Kong, March 2 (South China Morning Post): Beijing has refused to confirm a former Pakistani air force officer’s claim that China-made JF-17 fighters were used by the Pakistan Air Force to shoot down Indian military aircraft.
Less than two hours after the claim was made on Wednesday morning, the share price of the state-owned plane maker’s sister company rose in trading in Shenzhen.
The Chinese defence ministry did not respond on Thursday when asked whether JF-17s were involved in the Pakistan-India clashes.
Instead, ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said: “The most urgent and important thing is both India and Pakistan should keep restraint.”
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had said on Wednesday that it shot down two Indian fighter jets that entered Pakistani airspace near the Kashmir Line of Control, and captured a pilot. India said that its air force lost only one MiG-21 Bison and pilot while shooting down a Pakistani F-16.
The Pakistani military denied any involvement of the American-made F-16s in the engagement, making it more likely JF-17 jets were deployed – a theory bolstered by a tweet by a retired PAF officer.
“Proud to announce, I was project director for JF-17 Thunder programme jointly produced by Pakistan and China during the [2001-2008] tenure of General Pervez Musharraf,” retired PAF Air Marshall Shahid Latif tweeted early Wednesday morning.
“Today, same jets targeted and shot down Indian jets which entered Pakistani airspace.”
When trading opened less than two hours later in China, shares in Shenzhen-listed Sichuan Chengfei Integration Technology (CAC-SCIT), a sister company of JF-17 maker Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC), rose 10 per cent in five minutes – hitting the maximum daily rise allowed on the Chinese stock market.
Shares in CAC-SCIT, which makes car parts, rose a further 10 per cent on Thursday. CAC is not publicly listed.
CAC-SCIT shares had dropped back 5.57 per cent by midday on Friday.
If confirmed, the Pakistani operation would represent the first success by JF-17s in real air combat.
The lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft JF-17 was developed by CAC and is produced jointly with defence and aviation contractor Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. The PAF has about 110 JF-17s.
The Nigerian and Myanmarse air forces also use JF-17s, which they bought from Pakistan.
China has called on both sides to maintain communication and dialogue, “manage the situation and together safeguard peace and stability in this region”, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday.