By Liu Xuanzun
The latest, upgraded version of the JF-17 fighter jet has recently been spotted equipped with China’s most advanced air-to-air combat missile that is also used by China’s J-20 stealth aircraft, with military observers saying on Thursday that the weapon will give the China-Pakistan jointly developed light fighter the upper hand against its counterparts in dogfights and make it one of the world’s best in its class.
A photo recently circulating on social media shows a JF-17 Block 3 fighter jet with the serial number “3001” on a test flight, eastday.com, a Shanghai-based news website, reported on Wednesday.
This is the first time the aircraft with this particular serial number has been seen by the general public, and a PL-10 air-to-air combat missile can be seen on the tip of each of its wings, the report said, without revealing the date and location.
As the short-range combat missile also used by China’s most advanced J-20 stealth fighter jet and others, the PL-10 represents the highest level of its kind, and previous JF-17s are equipped with the old PL-5, eastday.com reported.
Observers said that the PL-10 equipped by the JF-17 Block 3 is likely an export variation, the PL-10E, which made its debut at the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province.
The PL-10E is a domestically developed, fourth generation air-to-air missile, and is one of the most advanced in the world that is on par with the US’AIM-9X, Liang Xiaogeng, chief designer of the missile, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the exhibition in 2018.
Thanks to its infrared-homing, extreme aerodynamic design and other advanced technologies, no aircraft, even stealth ones, can escape from the PL-10, eastday.com reported, also citing Liang.
With the PL-10, the JF-17 Block 3 will gain tremendous dogfight capability and have an edge even against its heavier opposing counterparts in homeland air defense, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times on Thursday, requesting anonymity.
In addition to the PL-10, the JF-17 Block 3 also received a more advanced radar, as China Central Television reported on Saturday that the fighter jet is equipped with the KLJ-7A airborne active electronically scanned array fire control radar.
The radar is of the most advanced level in the world, Hu Mingchun, director of the No.14 Research Institute at the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Co, told the Global Times at the 9th World Radar Expo in Nanjing, East China’s Jiangsu Province, last week.
The first JF-17 Block 3 prototype, with serial number “3000”, was taken into the skies for the first time in December 2019 in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine reported at that time.
Other technologies, including a new and larger holographic wide-angle head-up display and integrated cockpit display similar to the one used by the J-20, in addition to an advanced infrared missile approach warning system used by the J-10C, J-16 and J-20 fighter jets, are also used on the JF-17 Block 3, Aerospace Knowledge said.
The JF-17 Block 3 will be one of the world’s most powerful light fighter jets, experts said. The Block 1 and 2 versions of the JF-17 can also use new radars and missiles for upgrades, analysts said.