China and Pakistan started the Shaheen -- or Falcon -- IX joint air force exercises at the newly operational Bholari airbase in Sindh, less than 200 kilometres from the Indian border, on December 9. At the opening ceremony on Wednesday, Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Sulehri, Deputy Chief of Pakistan's air staff, said the exercises "will further enhance interoperability of both air forces, thereby fortifying brotherly relations between the two countries." Major Gen. Sun Hong, the Assistant Chief of Staff of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), said they "will improve the actual level of combat training and strengthen cooperation." The Pakistan Air Force released a video showing the wide range of military aircraft on display in the exercise, which will last until late December. China has sent aircraft, including its fourth generation Shenyang J-11 air superiority fighters and Chengdu J-10 multipurpose jets. The PLAAF contingent comprises Pilots and Air Defence Controllers. Pakistan is flying a mix of Chinese-made Chengdu F-7 interceptors, French Mirage 5 attack fighters and the new multipurpose JF-17 Thunder -- jointly produced by China and Pakistan. China's Defense Ministry said the drills are fostering deeper ties between the two militaries and says they will "deepen practical cooperation between the two air forces."

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