Development and production of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 “Thunder” Block III multirole fighter aircraft is reportedly underway, the chief designer of the fighter jet, Yang Wei, said at press conference in China last week.
All related work is being carried out. The third blocks will see the JF-17’s information warfare capability and weapons upgraded.”
JF-Block-III fighter jets are expected to receive the Chinese-made KLJ-7A active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system.
With the new upgrade, Wei expects the JF-17 Block 3 to match an improved version of the F-16 fighter jet.
Yang said that the development and batch production for the JF-17 Block 3 are going simultaneously, thanks to the broad experience.
Wei said this probably means while the upgrades like the new AESA radar are still in development, the airframe, which remains roughly the same, can be manufactured without waiting. However, once the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) completes development of the new AESA radar system, it “can be fitted on the airframe very fast, ensuring a quick delivery time,” Yang emphasized.
JF-17 Block III aircraft will reportedly also feature a new electronic warfare system, upgraded avionics including a three-axis fly-by-wire digital flight control system, and a helmet-mounted display and sight system. With its new integrated sensor package, the aircraft will have the capability for quick information sharing and network-enabled operations that facilitate earlier detection and interception of enemy aircraft.
It would be the Pakistan Air Force’s first AESA-equipped fighter aircraft.
JF-17 Block I and Block II aircraft, of which the PAF operates around 85 in total as of March 2019, have been fitted with NRIET’s older KLJ-7 X-band fire control radar. All three JF-17 variants are powered by a Chinese license-built Klimov RD-93 (an RD-33 derivative) turbofan engine. The JF-17 has an approximate combat radius of up to 1,200 kilometers without refueling and can reach a maximum speed of up to Mach 1.6.
The JF-17 costs $25 million per unit, although the Block III per-unit price is expected to go up as a result of the new subsystems, including the expensive new AESA radar system. The PAF intends to procure up to 50 new Block III aircraft.
Myanmar and Nigeria have reportedly purchased the Chinese-Pakistani warplane.
During a recent military standoff with India, a PAF JF-17 may have engaged an Indian Air Force fighter jet.