The first Block III prototype of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (PAC/CAIG) JF-17 Thunder/FC-1 Xiaolong multirole combat aircraft has made its maiden flight. Designated with the unit number 3000, took to the skies on 15 December from CAIG’s production facility at Chengdu-Huangtianba, with the first images of the event appearing some two weeks later on Chinese online forums. the JF-17 Block III prototype retains the airframe design of the JF-17 Block I and Block II, though with several changes. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is expected to place an order for 50 JF-17 Block-III fighter jets in the first half of 2017.
The prototype is include a modification at the rear of the aircraft by the vertical stabilizer, slightly enlarged spine, integration of sensors to the vertical stabilizer, helmet-mounted display and sight (HMD/S) system, a new single panel multi-functional display (MFD), an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar paired with an infrared search and track (IRST) system, and a cockpit with a flight-control stick on the side an NRIET KLJ-7A AESA radar, more use of composites, a new engine, and a two-seater cockpit option, with a top speed of 2.0+ Mach. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will continue using the Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine, so the inlet changes could be for optimizing the existing engine further.
Pakistani Air Force officials have described JF-17 Thunder Block III as a “fourth generation plus” fighter jet. The JF-17 can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel autocannon. Powered by a Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan, it has a top speed of Mach 1.8. The JF-17 is to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), complementing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the cost. The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010. As of December 2016 Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has manufactured 70 jets in the country for use by the Pakistan Air Force of the Block 1 type, and 33 jets of the Block 2 type.