Reports Thursday said that China had agreed to sell Iran advanced J-10 war planes – planes that many analysts believe contain Israeli-designed components. International news agencies said that the deal was worth some $40 million.
The deal was first reported by the Debka File web site last week. While the deal has not been independently confirmed by any of the governments, a Chinese newspaper said Thursday that a deal to sell Iran 20 J-10 planes had been struck. In return, Iran will provide not cash, but crude oil, which will be released over the next 20 years.
The Debka File report had put the number of planes to be sold at 150. The Chinese report was widely circulated in Israeli media Thursday.
According to analysts, the Chengdu J-10 combat plane, which China introduced in 2005, “bears strong resemblance” to Israel's Lavi. The Lavi was an Israeli-originated fighter plane developed in the 1980s that was eventually shelved, with the Israel Air Force canceling its contract with Israel Aerospace Industries and instead buying American-made F-15 planes.
The main reasons for the government's decision not to continue funding development of the Lavi were said to be high financing costs, as well as fierce opposition from the U.S., which was said to be concerned that the Lavi, which had advanced equipment and capabilities, would prove to be strong competition for American fighter planes on the world weapons market.
Israel has never confirmed that it provided China with the plans or technology for the Lavi. Chinese officials have been quoted as saying that the J-10 was developed solely in China, and was an outgrowth of development of previous generations of the Chengdu planes.