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Pakistan Debuts JF-17 Block-3 at 2023 Dubai Air Show
February 28, 2024

Pakistan Debuts JF-17 Block-3 at 2023 Dubai Air Show

In November, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) brought its newly inducted JF-17 Block-III to the 2023 Dubai Air Show, marking the latest Thunder variant’s international debut. The Block-III unit belonged to the No. 16 Squadron (“Black Panthers”) and was accompanied by a pair of Block-II aircraft.

The Block-III is the latest iteration of the JF-17. Not only does the Block-III introduce a number of new sub-systems to the Thunder fleet – such as active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, helmet-mounted display and sight (HMD/S) systems, and electronic countermeasures (ECM) suites – but it is also based on an improved platform. For example, the Block-III and twin-seat JF-17B introduced a three-axis fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system to replace the hybrid FBW in the Block-I and Block-II. There were also reports of the PAF even considering changing the engine from the Klimov RD-93 to a Chinese turbofan.[1] The PAF also revealed that the Block-III offers “superior maneuverability, extended range, and enhanced combat capabilities.”[2]

The Block-III’s static display included the commensurate set of SD-10 beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missiles (AAM), PL-5EII within-visual-range (WVR) AAMs, C-802A anti-ship cruising missiles (ASCM), laser-guided bombs (LGB), and unguided bombs, the PAF also showcased the Aselsan ASELPOD targeting pod.

Today, the JF-17 is the PAF’s workhorse multirole fighter. Since its induction in 2010, the PAF procured 50 Block-Is, 62 Block-IIs, and 26 two-seat JF-17Bs. Currently, the PAF has 30 Block-Is on order.

An Advanced, Yet Accessible, ITAR-Free Option

Since its inception, the PAF’s intended aim for the JF-17 was to acquire an accessible platform to leverage contemporary technologies and weapons. In the 2000s, the PAF’s goal was to disseminate BVRAAMs across most of its fighter fleet, a capability that was, albeit up to that point, missing in Pakistan’s premier fighter at the time, the General Dynamics F-16A/B Block-15. Today, the PAF wants to configure a significant bulk of its fleet with AESA radars, HMD/S, ECM (either integrated or via a pod), and a wider assortment of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, especially stand-off range weapons (SOW) and smart munitions…

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For More Pakistan Air Force News and Analysis, See:

[1] Alan Warnes. “Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder Fighter Will Fly in 2017.” Aviation Week & Space Technology. 13 February 2017.

[2] Akhil Kadidal. “Parting shot: PAF inducts JF-17 Block III aircraft.” Janes. 01 December 2023. URL: https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/parting-shot-paf-inducts-jf-17-block-iii-aircraft

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