If China continues to provide the Pakistan Air Force with the newest fighter jets in the future after expediting the supply of J-10CE at Pakistan’s request, the fact that Pakistan is the only member of the Quad that does not operate the F-35 or even a single fighter jet of American origin since its inception might change.
If Chinese manages to provide the fifth-generation J-31 to Pakistan starting in 2025, a Japanese think tank linked to the Japan Self Defense Force believes that the Indian Air Force may be forced to pursue a Government to Government contract for the procurement of fifth-generation fighter jets like the F-35.
The Pakistani Airforce already has plans to purchase J-31 fighter jets from China to replace its ageing F-16 fleet, and may be considering local assembly of these jets after the JF-17 production line is shut down sometime in 2026 to 2027. In contrast, India is developing its fifth generation fighter jet, which will be in the same class as the F-35, but it won’t be ready for at least the next 15 years or more.
The paper also discussed how China sprang into action and swiftly responded to India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France by selling Chinese produced J-10CE “Dragon” multi-role fighter aircraft to Pakistan in just 18 months. Pakistan is closely collaborating with China to introduce more compact JF-17 Block-III jets, and has also started developing the Block-IV, which would include a number of modifications and upgrades.
PAF views 250 JF-17s as low-tier aircraft that will be supported by medium-weight J-10CE, with 5th generation fighter jets like the J-31 making up the top tier. By 2030, the PAF intends to retire the Mirage III/V and Chinese F-7 aircraft, and by 2035, the older F-16 MLU-15. 25 J-10CE were purchased by PAF in the first batch, and 25 more will probably be purchased soon.
Pakistan no longer has any ambitions to produce a fifth-generation fighter jet domestically and is instead aggressively considering the Chinese J-31 and Turkey’s TFX programme. The US administration has begun the process to include India as the sixth nation in NATO Plus, which would take New Delhi closer to a Defense Security alignment with the US.
India will join a select group of nations that includes Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Israel, and South Korea that receives access to cutting-edge weapons and armaments before the other 24 NATO members.