Pakistan may procure 250 JF-17 Fighter to catch Almighty Indian Airforce
Pakistan wants to increase the number of its lightweight, multi-role JF-17 Thunder from the current 70 to 250, the Express Tribune reported, citing an official of the Pakistan Air Force. It was earlier reported that Pakistan Air Force has officially committed to procuring 150 JF-17, across all the three production blocks (Block-I, Block-II, and Block-III). The aircraft was created with a strong export potential.
The JF-17, which was created with Chinese collaboration, is assembled in Pakistan. It was intended to be an affordable and modern replacement to Mirage III and F-7 interceptors.
Following reports that Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were interested in buying the JF-17, former Soviet Union country Azerbaijan has reportedly shown interest in the JF-17 Thunder, according to a tweet by aviation journalist Alan Warnes.
The news comes after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Azerbaijan. The two countries said in a statement that they would engage in co-production and training. In November, the two countries also signed a bilateral defence cooperation agreement.
Azerbaijan is also interested in buying the MFI-395 Super Mushshak as a basic trainer. Turkey too recently signed a deal for 52 Super Mushshak aircraft. The Super Mushshaks are built by state-owned Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) from a version of the Saab MFI-17 Supporter aircraft that has been acquired by Iran, Iraq, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Nigeria too has ordered it.
Meanwhile, Rana Tanveer Hussain, Pakistani Minister for Defence Production, noted that defence exports have increased from $75 million to $100 million, Express Tribune said
The JF-17 Thunder’s operational history
The JF-17 Thunder, a single-engine multi-role fighter jet, and was jointly developed by China and Pakistan. Development on the aircraft started 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 upgraded 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 aircraft can carry 8,000lbs of ordinance on seven external hardpoints, which is an adequate amount of ordinance for any mission profile. The JF-17 enhances the much needed capability of the air force in beyond visual range (BVR) engagements.
The JF-17 is on its way to form the backbone of the PAF. JF-17 aircraft was inducted into Pakistani air force in order to phase out the ageing fleet of some other aircraft models that are still in operation.
For the Pakistan Air Force, the JF-17 fills the gap that had arisen due to an ageing inventory, which was further impacted by sanctions placed on the country following the nuclear tests in 1998.
The JF-17 is powered by a Russian RD-93 afterburning turbofan, which has a top speed for Mach 1.6. The engine is a derivative of the engine that powers the MIG-29 Fulcrum. With the recent improvement in Pakistan-Russia relations, it might be possible to source the engines directly from Russia, rather than through China. In November it was reported that PAF will stick with using the RD-93, and not opt for a Chinese-made engine.
It was also reported recently that PAF is interested in joint engine development with Russia. The air force for years has wanted to expand its technical capabilities in engine development, as they have lacked the capability in this highly-technical field.