The Pakistan-Chinese JF-17 ‘Thunder’ fighter aircraft has completed its Block-III design; an upgrade intended to match latest fourth-generation military jets such as the F-16V and Saab Gripen NG.
The outgoing Chief of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman announced on Monday that the design of the JF-17 Block-III had been finalized after a period of “two-and-a-half years,” Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
The Block-III version of the single-seat aircraft is to be equipped with an active electronically-scanned array radar, upgraded avionics suite, new electronic warfare and countermeasures system besides a helmet-mounted display and sight. Newly developed air-to-air missiles and a targeting pod are also to be added.
Major R & D work is being undertaken by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, a wing of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) while Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) is largely in charge of serial manufacturing. Various reports have said that the PAF would be the launch customer for the JF-17 Block III with some 50 aircraft to be delivered in the 2020-2022 timeframe.
The Block III version would boost the exports prospects of the JF-17 in countries that cannot afford expensive Western origin fighter aircraft such as the F-16V. Already, Myanmar is a customer for the Block II aircraft having signed a $560 million in July 2015 for 16 jets.
The JF-17 costs substantially less compared to fourth-generation Western fighter jets. Taking the Myanmar deal is a benchmark, the price of the Block II jets is around $32 million apiece which makes it a third cheaper than the F-16.