by Ami Rojkes Dombe
According to Chinese media, Iran will allow Beijing to exploit its largest oilfield and in return, China will provide the Iranian Air Force with 24 J-10 fighter aircraft. Rumors claim that the J-10 is an evolution of the "Lavi" aircraft developed in the 80's by Israel – however this was denied by China and Israel
Iran will become the second overseas user of Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group's J-10, according to wantchinatimes. According to the report, Iran will received the fighters without paying a dollar to China, by signing a contract to allow Beijing to exploit its largest oilfield over the next 20 years.
China will provide the Iranian Air Force with a total number of 24 F-10 Vigorous Dragon jets, the export version of the J-10, to equip its two fighter groups. The cost of a single J-10 is estimated at US$40 million, making the value of the deal around US$1 billion. This could be bartered through permitting Beijing 20 years of exploitation rights to the Azadegan oilfield. With a range of 2,940 kilometers, the fighters are capable of defending Iran's entire airspace and that of the Persian Gulf.
Several Chinese military analysts believe the United States may not be happy about such a deal and China will face international pressure should Iran use the fighters in combat against US allies in the region. Others meanwhile pointed out that 24 fighters will not make a major difference to the strategic situation in the Middle East.
It has been alleged that the J-10 is actually a version of the Israeli "Lavi" aircrafe developed in the 80's in Israel – a project that was halted due to American pressure. China and Israel officially denied the connection between the two aircraft. However, if in the end it will turn out that the J-10 has Israeli roots, it would be somewhat ironic if technology developed by Israeli engineers ends up in the hands of Iranian pilots.
Pakistan is the first overseas customer for the J-10. Back in 2009, China agreed to sell 36 export version of the advanced J-10B fighters known as FC-20 to Pakistan in a contract worth US$$1.4 billion.
Ami Rojkes Dombe
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