The first JF-17 Block III prototype (#3000) just returned to the CAC airfield from its maiden flight on December 15, 2019. As the latest variant of JF-17, Block III carries PAF’s ambition to counter IAF’s most powerful 3.5th generation fighter Rafale.
The aircraft is expected to feature a more powerful engine (WS-13E? 9,000kg class), a new AESA radar developed by NETRI/14th Institute(KLJ-7A, range 170km, track 15, engage 4) or by the 607 Institute (LKF601E, air cooled), HMDS, IRST, upgraded EW suite, full authority digital FBW and a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground guided weapons including PL-10E IIR guided AAM as well as PL-15E active radar homing AAM (using twin launch rails).
Additional hard points are installed including ones underneath the engine air intake for ECM or targeting pod. Images of the first flight indicated the JF-17Block III prototype features a J-20 style narrow frame wide-angle holographic HUD (EHUD-2?), a slightly enlarged spine, and new forward MAWS sensors behind the engine air intakes.
The rear MAWS sensors were relocated to the EW compartment on top of the vertical tail fin as well. Otherwise the overall aerodynamic configuration remains unchanged and the aircraft is still powered by the original RD-93 engine.