Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Pakistan has recently expressed interest in making a huge purchase of Russian military hardware, citing comments from Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Moscow-based defense think tank Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
The total invoice could top $9 billion, according to Makienko, who added that Pakistan would likely purchase Russian heavy and medium fighter jets, medium and short-range air defense systems, combat helicopters, tanks, and warships.
Makienko named two types of Russian military hardware that would likely be on Islamabad’s shopping list: the new Russian fighter jet MiG-35 and the heavy transport helicopter Mi-26T2.
Currently, Chinese-made jets make up the bulk of Pakistan’s fleet of fighter jets: the Chengdu J-7, and JF-17 Thunder. The former was modeled after the Russian jet MiG-21, while the latter was developed jointly by the Pakistani state-owned aerospace company Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and China’s state-owned Chengdu Aircraft Corp.
Pakistani authorities haven’t confirmed this planned purchase, nor have Pakistani media reported on it thus far.
But Makienko noted that given the low-competitive nature of the military market in Pakistan, which is dominated by China, Russia would likely receive extremely favorable terms on the purchase contracts.
He added that Pakistan has not made requests such as technology transfer or localization of production as terms for any purchases.
China supplied weapons worth over $6.4 billion to Pakistan from 2008 to 2018, making it Pakistan’s biggest supplier, according to data from the independent arms research institute SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), followed by the United States with $2.5 billion, and Italy with $471 million worth of weapons.
Aside from arms sales, there have been other recent signs that Russia and Pakistan plan to enhance their military ties.
On March 24, Russia’s Federal News Agency (FAN) reported comments by Pakistani Major General Asif Ghafoor about expanding defense cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad. Ghafoor said that there could be more military contracts between the two countries, as Pakistan had just received its orders of Russian attack helicopters Mi-35, a purchase made in 2015.
Russia and China are competing for customers for their military equipment worldwide. Russian news agency TASS, in an editorial published on March 29, noted that China was a market competitor in the sale of submarines, citing the case of Thailand’s navy choosing to buy submarines from China over shipbuilders in Russia, South Korea, and Germany.