Pakistan Air Force has reportedly inducted its first unit of JF-17 Block 3 fighter jets into the number 16 squadron nicknamed ‘Black Panthers’.
According to the local media reports about 12 fighters were indeed inducted into service in a very small-scale ceremony. The JF-17 is jointly developed by China and Pakistan.
The fighter revolutionizes the capabilities of the JF-17 design and is considered a ‘4+ generation’ fighter with fifth-generation level avionics and weaponry.
The fighter is one of four fourth-generation classes which have been produced using many of the technologies developed for China’s J-20 fifth-generation fighter, which began deliveries to the air force in 2016.
It has thus been referred to as having ‘J-20 DNA.’ This mirrors references in Western commentaries to the latest variants of the American F-16 ‘4+ generation’ fighter the F-16 Block 70/72 as having ‘F-35 DNA.’ The J-20 and F-35 are the only fifth-generation fighters in production and fielded at squadron-level strength.
The JF-17 Block 3’s avionics suite including its controls and cockpit displays bear a resemblance to those of the J-20, with its helmet-mounted sights and heads-up displays allowing it to capitalize on a new range of armaments.
These pair particularly well with the PL-10 infrared-guided air-to-air missile, a close contender for the title of the most advanced of its kind in the world, which uses aerodynamic and thrust-vector controls, which are paired with the advanced helmet-mounted cueing systems to exploit its extremely high maneuverability.
This allows Pakistan’s new fighters to engage targets at very extreme angles without the need to maneuver the fighter itself. The missile provides a comfortable performance advantage over the American AIM-9X and Russian R-73.
The JF-17 is anticipated to replace the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) aging fleet of Chengdu F-7 and Dassault Mirage-III/V stealth fighters. It is speculated to share some of the technology with China’s J-20 “Mighty Dragon” stealth fighter.