Wednesday, August 29, 2012

North Korea wants to buy Chinese JH-7 fighter bombers?

This is interesting. It is being reported that North Korea wants to purchase the Xi'an JH-7 two-seat, twin-engined fighter-bomber from China if or when its leader Kim Jong Un visits the East Asian powerhouse. If this deal goes through (and it has been reported that China had previously said no), it would represent a significant improvement in the air-to-ground capability of the Korean People's Air Force (KPAF).

First flown in 1988 as a result of a Chinese Navy requirement for a two-man all-weather, tandem cockpit, strike and reconnaissance aircraft, operations with the original JH-7 variant began in the 1990s. Despite not being regarded state of the art, the improved JH-7A version which is currently flown by Chinese Air Force and Navy units is nevertheless capable of supersonic precision strike using a variety of guided weapons including the C-801 and C-802 anti-ship missiles as well as the Russian KAB-series of precision-guided bombs. It could also serve as an air combat platform, being able to launch a variety of Chinese air-to-air missiles and is equipped with a pulse-Doppler radar. The type is marketed overseas as the FBC-1 Flying Leopard.

Currently lacking in modern fast jets with a precision strike capability, the KPAF was known to have operated the Sukhoi Su-7 'Fitter-A' (believed to have since been retired) and the Nanchang Q-5, both of which are obsolete by today's standards. The KPAF's principal ground attack platform currently consists of a regiment of Sukhoi Su-25K Frogfoot close air support aircraft based at Sunchon, north of the capital Pyongyang, which although heavily armoured and capable, are too slow to be an effective strike aircraft.

The KPAF's capabilities has been hamstrung by North Korea's isolation and moribund state of the nation's economy. China and Russia remain the only nations willing and able to supply it with advanced weapons, but even that has been called into doubt due to the North's inability to pay in hard currency and deteriorating relations with their principal backer China as a result of the North's nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions, which have repeatedly caused instability in the region.

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