China Looks To Sell Its New Stealth Fighter To Saudi Arabia After Winning The Light Aircraft Deal From The UAE

The Chinese defense industry is hogging the limelight with cutting-edge weapons and technology at Saudi Arabia’s first-ever World Defense Show, state-owned Chinese media claimed. 

At the four-day exhibition in Riyadh, which began on March 6, eight Chinese companies are showcasing their hardware. The weapons on display include the LY-80 air defense system, the SR5 multiple rocket system, the JY-27A anti-air warning radar, the Y-9E transport aircraft, electronic warfare defense system, multi-purpose unmanned boat, and multi-type drones such as the Wing Loong-2, the CH-5, and the WJ-700. 

China’s FC-31 stealth fighter plane apparently stood out among all these products. On March 7, the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) announced its participation in the defense expo on social media. 

As EurAsian Times had earlier reported that the manufacturer of FC-31 has recently set up a separate office to promote the aircraft in the international market. 

People visit the China Defence exhibition area of the first World Defense show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 6, 2022. (via Xinhua)

Global Times also claimed that Chinese weapons and equipment piqued the curiosity of several dignitaries attending the event such as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Yemen’s Prime Minister, and Iraq’s Defense Minister. 

Shen Yujie, the Saudi Arabian general representative of China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO), has said that the business displayed the PLZ45A4 artillery system at the event. The PLZ45A4 had several customized upgrades in terms of firepower, reliability, and user interface, Shen said.

Another Chinese company, CETC International Co Ltd displayed the ZDK-03 early warning aircraft, said Tian Yaobin, the company’s general manager. 

A Mega Defense Show 

Saudi Arabia is hosting the first edition of the World Defense Show in Riyadh from March 6 to  March 9, 2022. More than 600 exhibitors from 45 nations and regions are attending the four-day event featuring 15 national pavilions with a total exhibition area of 900,000 square meters.

The World Defense Show, founded by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), will take place every two years, displaying the finest technological breakthroughs from around the world, according to the organizer.

The event is designed to give a one-of-a-kind venue for networking, collaboration, information sharing, and new invention discovery. Meanwhile, a Start-Up Zone has been set up to showcase the most cutting-edge technology developed by small and medium-sized businesses from around the world, allowing them to pitch their ideas to industry decision-makers, investors, and venture capital organizations.

The Head of the Peace Program, Major General Abdullah Al-Rabiah, at Bae Systems booth at the World Defense Exhibition – Twitter

The event, according to GAMI Governor Ahmad Al-Ohali, is a significant step forward to realize the kingdom’s goal of localizing 50% of its military spending by 2030. “There has never been a better time to partner with Saudi Arabia’s defense and security ecosystem as we continue to transform a nascent industry with immense potential,” he added.

China Expanding Footprint In Middle East

In recent years, China has dramatically improved its relations with a number Middle-Eastern countries, including some US allies. According to SIPRI data, China raised the proportion of arms supplies to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by 386 percent and 169 percent, respectively, between 2016 and 2020, compared to 2011-2015.

Moreover, the UAE Defense Ministry has announced plans to buy 12 L15 light combat and training aircraft, with the prospect of buying another 36 planes later, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times. The decision signaled a significant strategic deviation in the country’s long-standing policy of procuring only Western military aircraft.

L-15 jet trainer
An L-15 rehearses a demonstration flight ahead of the Dubai Airshow, on November 13, 2021.

China has marketed its weaponry as technically advanced, cost-effective, which comes with full after-sales support with little political constraints. This makes these armaments a very appealing option for international purchasers. 

According to the state media, upon request, China can provide technology and assist in the development of production lines in the customer’s nation. These efforts not only produce local jobs, but also improve the customer’s entire industrial independence.