US, Russia, China in fierce battle to sell fighter jets in Asia

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2008 (AFP) – The United States is bracing for tough competition from Russia and China as cash-flush Asian economies look up to the trio for a new breed of fighter jets to beef up their air forces, experts say. Japan, India, Australia and South Korea are keen to have the most modern, fifth generation, jet fighters while Southeast Asian nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia are reportedly eyeing fourth generation fighters from China.

With Asia powering ahead with military modernization and capability growth, the United States wants to maintain leadership in defense sales in the region attracted by low cost offerings from Russia and China, experts said.

“The Americans and Russians are competing hard for the Asian fighter aircraft market, but everybody is also watching to see how aggressively the Chinese will be entering this market,” Richard Fisher, an expert with the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, told AFP.

The tight competition comes as Asian economies move ahead “much more aggressively” to upgrade their air defense capabilities, he said.

“It’s not quite right to say an arms race, but there is an arms jog in Asia,” Fisher said.

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