The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will likely place an order for 50 Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 Block-III fighter jets in the first half of 2017, according to PAC chairman Air Marshall Arshad Malik.
The JF-17 is a lightweight, single-engine, multirole combat aircraft, powered by a Russian-designed-but-Chinese-built Klimov RD-93 (a RD-33 derivative) turbofan. The aircraft can reach a top speed of Mach 1.6 and reportedly has an operational range of 1,200 kilometers (745 miles). The fighter jet features seven hardpoints and can carry up to 3,629 kilograms in weaponry and other payloads.
The PAF is slated to induct 150 JF-17 combat aircraft over the next years split into three production blocks: Block-I, Block II, and Block-III. PAC has so far produced 50 Block-I aircraft and over 20 out of a total order of 50 Block-II JF-17s. According to the PAC chairman in an interview with Asian Military Review, Pakistan will produce 14 additional JF-17 Block-II aircraft in 2017.
The JF-17 Block-III, the latest variant of the combat aircraft, will feature new avionics including Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), which will replace the older Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technologies’ (NRIET) KLJ-7 X-band fire control radar, and a new electronic warfare system, among other things.
As I explained previously (See: “Confirmed: Pakistan Air Force Now Operates 70 JF-17 Fighter Jets”):
Pakistan produces 58 percent of the airframe and China 42 percent. Islamabad has the capacity to assemble up to 25 JF-17s per year without Beijing’s technical assistance. However, as I noted in April 2015, according to Chinese and Pakistani media reports, China agreed to deliver 110 JF-17s to Pakistan in fly-away condition due to Pakistan’s still limited aircraft manufacturing capacity.
It appears that PAC’s production problems are a thing of the past as Pakistan has actively been promoting the aircraft to foreign customers. Nigeria has allegedly agreed to purchase three JF-17s; Myanmar placed an order for 16 combat aircraft and is purportedly considering ordering an unknown number of additional JF-17s.
As I reported elsewhere:
The JF-17 was originally developed to to replace the PAF’s aging fleet of Dassault Mirage III/5 fighter jets by 2o20. “Pakistan is looking to replace 190 aircraft—primarily Chengdu F-7 and Dassault Mirage III/5 fighter jets—by 2020 presumably with a mixture of F-16 and JF-17 aircraft. Pakistan, however, is also allegedly in talks with Russia over the purchase of Su-35 multi-role fighters,” I reported in April (See: “China and Pakistan Air Forces Launch Joint Training Exercise”).
PAC is also in the process of building a combat-capable two-seat trainer variant of the JF-17, the JF-17B. According to the PAC chairman, three JF-17Bs will be built initially.