China and Pakistan have launched a joint air force exercise in Pakistan which will take place from April 9 to 30, Air Force spokesperson Shen Jinke said.
The air force drill named “Shaheen (Eagle)-5″ is the fifth such drill between China and Pakistan.
According to Shen, joint military exercises and exchanges between Chinese and Pakistani air forces in recent years had effectively deepened cooperation between the two militaries.
He said the Chinese air force is willing to further expand exchanges and cooperation with the rest of the world and join hands with international peers to handle challenges and crises.
China’s air force on Saturday began joint training exercises with that of Pakistan, China’s defense ministry said, as the two nations’ militaries strengthen operational ties.
“China’s Air Force hopes to widen the scope of cooperation and dialogue with all countries and regions,” the Chinese defense ministry said in a statement on its website, adding that the exercise, called “Shaheen V,” would run until April 30.
Shaheen-4, which was staged in China last year, featured fighters, fighter bombers as well as airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The two countries also jointly produce PAC JF-17 Thunder, or CAC FC-1 Xiaolong fighter jet.
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Pakistan Air Force second-in-command Muhammad Ashfaque Arain said the bulk of the burden was now borne by a fleet of US-made F-16 aircraft.
He saw the purchase of more F-16s as economically unfeasible, however. Instead, Islamabad plans to invest in a joint fighter built with China, the JF-17.
The countries call each other “all-weather friends”, with ties underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbor, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence in Asia.
China has long urged Pakistan to weed out what it says are militants from its far western region of Xinjiang who have holed up in lawless ethnic Pashtun areas on Pakistan’s Afghan border, home to a mix of groups, including the Taliban and al Qaeda.
For its part, Pakistan wants to upgrade its air force, now dependent on a mostly outmoded fleet of US, French and Chinese fighter jets that Pakistani officials fear can do little against Indian craft or help target domestic insurgents.
The first such drill was held in Pakistan in March 2011, the second in China’s western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in September 2013 and the third was held in Punjab, Pakistan, in May 2014.