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Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Delivers New JF-17B Batch
February 21, 2021

Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Delivers New JF-17B Batch

On 30 December 2020, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) rolled out 14 JF-17B twin-seat fighters for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). These aircraft will join the eight JF-17Bs PAC rolled out in December 2019 – they are part of a wider PAF order of 26 aircraft. It seems that the JF-17B program is on-schedule as the PAF had intended to acquire 22 aircraft by the end of 2020. The remaining four are due in 2021.

The PAF ordered the JF-17B as an add-on to its original plan of 150 JF-17s. The PAF will primarily use the JF-17B as an operational conversion unit (OCU) asset to support pilot transition to the JF-17, which is now the PAF’s mainstay combat aircraft. The F-7P’s OCU squadron – i.e., No. 18 Sharp Shooters – will switch to the JF-17B and operate as the JF-17’s OCU unit from Minhas Air Base in Kamra.[1]

Like its other multirole OCU assets, the JF-17B will also be combat capable. However, it is unclear if JF-17B units will offer additional capabilities above the standard features of the Block-II.

The PAF also announced that PAC will also start the production of JF-17 Block-3s. The PAF reportedly did confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic “inflicted serious impacts” on PAC, but it still seems that the Block-3 project is running on schedule.[2] PAC is aiming to roll out 12 JF-17 Block-3s a year from 2021 to 2024.[3]

The JF-17 Block-3 first flew at the end of 2019. The PAF is positioning the Block-3 as its primary counter to the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) induction of Dassault Rafale fighters. In addition to equipping the Block-3 with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, the PAF is also adding “air dominance” and “enhanced EW [electronic warfare] suite and BVR [beyond-visual-range) capability” to its messaging.

Glimpses of Project AZM’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

The PAF also showed brief glimpses of its in-house unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). PAC has been working on a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV since 2017. Observers have noted that the PAC UAV’s vertical stabilizers do not bear identical similarities with the Wing Loong II, CH-4 or CH-5.[4] This follows the UAV’s early design concepts which – while broadly similar to other UAVs – showed an original design.

First Export Deliveries

The background of the first photo shows the three JF-17s earmarked for Nigeria. Nigeria ordered three JF-17 Block-IIs in 2016 under a $184 million US contract. The JF-17 would make Nigeria the second country in Sub-Saharan Africa to operate a modern fourth-generation fighter with long-range air-to-air, anti-ship, and precision-strike capabilities (following South Africa). These three aircraft are likely an initial order, and Nigeria will order more once it has organizes the funds (or secures a loan from China).

In the photo below, one can see the tail of Turkey’s first Super Mushshak basic trainers. Turkey ordered 52 aircraft in 2016. These were scheduled for delivery in June 2020, but due to the pandemic, the program got delayed. However, it appears that Turkey will receive its first aircraft in the coming months.

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For more insights on Pakistan’s defence modernization efforts, check out:

[1] “Pakistan JF-17 Thunder unit shuffles.” Scramble. 11 November 2020. URL: https://www.scramble.nl/military-news/pakistan-jf-17-thunder-unit-shuffles

[2] “PAF launches serial production of latest JF-17 Thunder Block III.” The News International. 31 December 2020. URL: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/767018-paf-launches-serial-production-of-latest-jf-17-thunder-block-iii

[3] Alan Warnes. “JF-17 Thunder – Lightning Strikes Twice.” AIN Online. 15 June 2019. URL: https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/defense/2019-06-15/jf-17-thunder-lightning-strikes-twice

[4] Andreas Rupprecht. Twitter. 01 January 2021. URL: https://twitter.com/RupprechtDeino/status/1344919351456124928

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