Like many African countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing significant economic growth, around 6% per year, partly driven by the rise in raw materials on the international scene. The country is indeed a major exporter of mining products, with large reserves of gold, copper, uranium and coltan, as well as diamonds and oil. Today, Congolese exports, whether of raw materials or agricultural production, represent $22,5 billion each year, or a third of the country's Gross Domestic Product. This growth, largely supported by the many investments granted by China, is however threatened by the country's political instability, and in particular by the Tutsi rebellion in the North Kivu region organized around the March 23 Movement, or M23, composed former soldiers from the CNDP who launched their rebellion in 2012. After a period of calm following a massive offensive against this Congolese army group in 2013, it resumed its abuses from November 2021, to reach a peak with the Kishish massacre last November, having killed more than 120 civilians according to international organizations.
It is in this context that Lieutenant-General Franck Ntumba, who commands the military house of the Congolese Head of State, has multiplied the acquisitions of military equipment in recent months, so as to provide the regular army with the necessary means to come at the end of the M23, but also to anticipate possible border conflicts, in particular with Rwanda accused by Kinshasa of supporting the rebel movement. Thus, a little over a month ago, the latter confirmed the acquisition of 9 Chinese-made CH-4 MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) drones, precisely to monitor and possibly strike the forces of the M23. Designed by CASC, the CH-4 Rainbow is a 1,3 ton drone with a wingspan of 20 meters, with a range of 40 hours at a speed of 350 km/h for a maximum altitude of 7500 meters . In particular, it can be armed with AR-1 light air-to-ground missiles and laser-guided bombs. This acquisition has apparently exacerbated the appetites of Kinshasa, since negotiations have been opened with a Chinese delegation with a view to acquiring new combat aircraft intended to support the 7 Su-25 as well as the 8 Mi combat helicopters -24 of Soviet origin currently in service.
Initially, it seemed that the discussions between Congolese and Chinese concerned the acquisition of FC-1, the export version of the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder. Nevertheless, according to the politico.cd website, the Congolese military authorities would have expressed the wish to acquire a heavier aircraft than the Thunder, which evolves in the same category as that of the South Korean FA-50 with a maximum take-off weight of 13 tons and a payload capacity 3,5 tons. Obviously, Kinshasa wants a device offering superior performance to the FC-1, which is generally considered to offer a very attractive price-performance ratio, in particular due to good motorization and modern on-board electronics allowing it to implement very advanced munitions such as the PL-10E and PL-15E air-to-air missiles, the HD-1A supersonic cruise missile and various guided bombs. To meet Kinshasa's expectations, the Chinese delegation would then have proposed the acquisition of the J-10C single-engine fighter, a much more efficient aircraft, but also heavier and more expensive, than the Thunder.
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