Pakistan Air Force to receive first 12 JF-17B Thunder aircraft ‘in near future’

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By Alan Warnes, Jane’s Defence Weekly

Deliveries of the first 12 of 26 twin-seat JF-17B Thunder multirole combat aircraft on order for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) are expected to commence “in the near future”, PAF officials have told Jane’s .

Eight of these aircraft were built at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra, while the remaining four were constructed by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) in China, where the aircraft type is known as the FC-1 Xiaolong.

The aircraft, several of which are equipped with aerial refuelling probes, had been rolled out at PAC Kamra in late December 2019 during a ceremony that was also attended by the PAF’s Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan. Delivery of the remaining JF-17Bs is expected to be completed by 2021.

Speaking to Jane’s on 20 January, ACM Khan explained that the JF-17Bs will help to streamline the PAF’s training process for the Thunder. “The JF-17 pilots are currently being posted to Lockheed Martin F-16, Chengdu F-7PG or Dassault Mirage IIIEA ROSE aircraft before converting to the JF-17,” he said. “But they will start going straight to a JF-17 OCU [operational conversion unit] after completing their advanced jet training.” ACM Khan added that this “will ensure that pilots transitioning to the Sino-Pakistani jet are a lot younger than they are now”.

The JF-17B prototype made its first flight in China in April 2017.

Meanwhile, the PAF revealed that after a lengthy evaluation the air-cooled Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) KLJ-7A active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar has been selected for the Block III variant of the JF-17/ FC-1 Xiaolong, the first prototype of which made its maiden flight on 17 December from CAIG’s production facility at Chengdu-Huangtianba. PAC Kamra’s newly appointed chairman, Air Marshal Syed Noman Ali, said a second Block III prototype will assist in May with the test and evaluation process.