Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) formally handed over the JF-17 multi-role fighter to Minhas Air Base’s No. 14 squadron (named the “Tail Choppers”) on Thursday, 16 February 2017.
Notes & Comments:
No. 14 had previously been flying F-7P and FT-7Ps, which are Chinese-built variants of the Mikoyan MiG-21. Prior to the F-7P, No. 14 was one of the initial users of the PAF’s F-16A/B Block-15s.
With No. 14, the PAF operates five JF-17 units comprising of four operational fighter squadrons (i.e. No. 2, No. 14, No. 16 and No. 26) and a training unit at Combat Commanders School (CCS).
This is a significant upgrade for No. 14. With the JF-17, the squadron is now equipped with a network-enabled (via Link-17) multi-role fighter capable of deploying beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and precision-guided air-to-surface munitions. No. 14’s aircraft are also equipped with in-flight refueling probes.
In December 2016, PAC stated it had delivered more than 70 JF-17s to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Photos from January 2017 had shown that JF-17 Block-II production crossed 30 aircraft.
Most of the PAF’s F-7Ps have been phased out, with the remaining unit being the No. 18 squadron, which is an operational conversion unit (OCU) flying F-7Ps and twin-seat FT-7P. It is possible that this squadron will switch over to a mixed JF-17 fleet comprising of two-seat JF-17Bs.
The PAF’s Block-II order of 50 planes will likely be completed in 2017. Aviation Week reports that PAC will produce 12 additional Block-IIs (in addition to the 50 ordered by the PAF) in 2018.
The JF-17 Block-III will – tentatively – enter production from 2019, but the PAF will issue its Block-III order in 2017. The Block-III will be equipped with an active electronically-scanned array radar, new electronic warfare and electronic countermeasure suite, and helmet-mounted display and sight system.
The Block-III will likely replace the PAF’s non-Retrofit of Strike Element (ROSE) Mirage III/5s. The F-7PG and Mirage ROSE I/II/III will continue flying with the PAF for the foreseeable future.