The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has announced the production of the state-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block III fighter jets with a new radar, while at the same time, 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pakistan-China cooperation were also handed over to the PAF. The dual-seat JF-17 Block II jets are expected to pave the way for the Block III jets. Their headline feature is an active electronically scanning array (AESA) radar, the latest targeting and electronic warfare systems analogous to those found on much more expensive aircraft such as the F-16 and JAS 39 Gripen. The fighter jet also reportedly packs information-based warfare capability and upgraded weapons.
The ceremony was attended by the Pakistan Air Force’s Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong. Anwar congratulated the PAC and China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) on the successful completion of the production target in a record time and called the induction of the dual-seat fighter aircraft JF-17 Thunder in the PAF fleet a significant milestone towards self-reliance. Fourteen aircraft were handed over to the PAF, which will be used for training. The Pakistani air chief and the Chinese ambassador also inaugurated the production of the latest Block III of JF-17, multirole fighter aircraft, which is believed to be equivalent to that of Rafael jets.
The PAC JF-17 Thunder is a low cost, lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. It was designed to replace the A-5C, F-7P/PG, Mirage III, and Mirage V combat aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force. The JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance. Its designation “JF-17” by Pakistan is short for “Joint Fighter-17”, while the designation and name “FC-1 Xiaolong” by China means “Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon”.
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 1.6. 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. In 2015 Pakistan produced 16 JF-17s. As of 2016, Pakistan is believed to have the capacity to produce 25 JF-17 per year. 58% of the airframe is Pakistani and 42% Chinese/Russian-origin.