China is reportedly currently in talks with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to sell the two Arab states a variety of new weapons, including the Chengdu J-10C, the fighter jet that forms the backbone of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
A Monday report published by Tactical Report, a Beirut-based intelligence service, has claimed that Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) is currently in talks with China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) to buy fighter jets, reconnaissance drones, and air defense systems.
The agency also said negotiations have continued between the Egyptian Air Force and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, with the two sides meeting on the sidelines of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia on Tuesday. Cairo seeks a dozen of Chengdu’s J-10C fighter jets, which have only been sold abroad to Pakistan thus far.
First unveiled in 2006 after it had already entered PLAAF service, the J-10 was the first indigenously-designed Chinese fighter jet to approach the capabilities of those built by Russia and the West.
It has an advanced radar, a fly-by-wire control system, a top speed of Mach 1.8, and can perform ground strike missions in addition to interceptor duties, which are its primary purpose.
Riyadh is reportedly seeking to acquire the Sky Saker FX80, a truck-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); the CR500 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV; Cruise Dragon 5 and 10 loitering munitions; and the HQ-17AE short-range air defense system, which was derived from Russia’s Tor-M1 SHORAD system.
Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are among the world’s top weapons importers, and both have been increasingly looking to Russia and China as partners in multiple fields in order to reduce their dependence on the United States.
Beijing has expanded its cooperation with Riyadh in recent years on multiple fronts, including economic, military, and diplomatic, recently helping to negotiate a revival of relations with Iran. The Saudi appetite for weapons has also been fueled by its eight-year-long war in Yemen against the Houthi movement, with whom peace talks are presently underway.
Egypt has historically enjoyed a closer relationship with Russia than Saudi Arabia has, and its military equipment is a testament to that: where the Saudis fly US-made F-15s, the Egyptians field Russian-made MiG-29s. Both nations also use US-made F-16s.