Pakistan and China have launched the production of a new variant of the JF-17B ‘Thunder’ multi- role combat jet to be inducted into PAF by April next year to enhance its operational capabilities, media reported today.
The production of the first prototype of JF-17B aircraft was initiated by both the countries at an induction ceremony held in Chengdu Aerospace Corporation in southwestern Sichuan province’s Chengdu city, Dawn reported. The dual-seat combat aircraft will enhance training value and operational capability, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Air Marshal Muhammad Iqbal said.
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He thanked Chinese leadership for their continuous support in the design, development and manufacturing phases of the JF-17 development project. The budget allocated for the project was not made public. The latest models have upgraded avionics, air-to-air refuelling capability, data link, enhanced electronic warfare capability and enhanced load carrying ability. The JF-17 can be equipped with air-to-air and air-to-ground ordinance.
The aircraft mounts both short-range infra-red air to air missiles along with longer ranged radar-guided BVR missiles, an essential capability for a frontline interceptor. The jet is set to make its maiden flight by the end of this year, the PAF said, adding that the aircraft will be inducted into PAF by April next year. Chinese leadership paid tribute to Pakistan Air Force authorities for operationalising the aircraft and expressed their resolve to continue support for development work of the JF-17 project.
The JF-17 Thunder, a single-engine multi-role fighter jet, was jointly developed by China and Pakistan. Its development began in 1999, and the maiden flight was conducted in 2003. The initial Block 1 JF-17s were received in 2007, with production of the upgraded Block 2 JF-17s started in 2013. The JF-17 is a capable platform, and is on its way to form the backbone of the PAF. It was reported that between 250 and 300 aircraft will be inducted into the air force in order to phase out the ageing fleet of some other aircraft models that are still in operation.