After making its presence felt among South Asian and African countries, China has now turn its eye to the South American countries in order to further spread its influence among global communities. Despite the fact that China’s modern aircraft is still lacking behind the world’s leading and traditional military aircraft manufacturers from the US, Russia and Western Europe, the former’s product still has its own attraction especially among third world countries which needs to have a relatively cheap aircraft but with capabilities comparable to any other modern aircraft.
For the past several years, China has been quite successful in its effort to market its indigenous military hardware to the countries of Latin America. Bolivia and Venezuela have been several countries that have procured significant numbers of Chinese made aircraft and helicopters.
Under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has distanced itself from the US as well as most European countries deemed close to the super power country. As a result, its Venezuelan Air Force has opted to widen its choices of military hardware sources beyond the traditional supplier nations. The Air Force had already procured 24 Su-30MK2V from Russia as well as similar number of Hongdu K-8W jet trainer from China. The Venezuealan Air Force also procured 8 Shanxi Y-8 transport aircraft from China to reinforce the three existing American made C-130H Hercules aircraft. The Venexuelan Navy is in the midst of acquiring six ASW configured Harbin Z-9 Haitun.
The Venezuelan Air Force is actually a recent South American customer of the armed K-8W jets. In 2009, the Bolivian Air Force has acquired six K-8W trainer aircraft which is armed for anti narcotics operation. The Bolivian Army is also acquiring six Harbin H425 helicopters, which is a development of the Z-9 Haitun.
Argentina has also become another customer for China’s emerging defence industries’ product. Its state owned FAdeA has recently unveiled the first locally assembled Changhe Z-11, an unlicensed copy of Eurocopter AS-350 Squirrel for the Argentinian Army. Up to 30 Pampero helicopters, as the Z-11 is known in Argentina would be delivered in the future.
China’s footprint might be small for the time being but with more modern aircraft and helicopters that it has recently developed for export market, these South American countries might be the potential customers for the Chengdu F-10 Vanguard (export version of J-10), Chengdu JF-17 Thunder (export version of FC-1), Guizhou FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle (export version of JL-9) as well as Harbin WZ-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters.