A delegation of the Chinese aeronautics company Catic accompanied by officers of the People’s Liberation Army is now in Kinshasa to offer combat aircraft to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Associated Press Agency (APA) reported on Thursday.
The purpose of the trip to Kinshasa is to propose to the Congolese presidency the acquisition of several Chengdu FC-1 Xialong multi-role combat aircraft, built by the China Aviation Technology Import-Export Corp (CATIC).
The planes, which result from an industrial partnership between China and Pakistan, are also built in Pakistan by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), under the name JF-17 Thunder.
The new offer aims to meet the wish of Congolese President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo to strengthen the air-force component of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC), which is currently equipped with only a few Sukhoi Su-25s of Soviet design.
One of the Sukhoi’s was hit at the end of January as it was about to land at the Goma airfield, in the east of the DRC, by a missile strike that Kinshasa blamed on neighbouring Rwanda, which is accused of supporting the M23 (March 23 Movement) rebellion.
The M23 rebels have seized large swathes of territory in the mineral-rich North Kivu province since 2022. This predominantly Tutsi armed group, defeated in 2013 by the FARDC with the support of Monusco peacekeepers, took up arms again in late 2021.
The Chinese delegation also offered Kinshasa Chengdu J-10 aircraft – from the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation – which are “significantly more expensive”, said the APA, received in Brussels.
The FARDC has already ordered nine CH-4 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) combat and reconnaissance drones from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the agency said.