Iraq has decided to purchase 12 JF-17 Thunder Block III fighter jets from Pakistan. According to Pakistani media reports, the defense deal was approved by both the Iraqi and Pakistani governments, and a formal agreement is expected to be signed in Islamabad next month.
After several rounds of negotiations between Iraq and Pakistan on fighter jets, Iraq’s government approved the amount of 664 million USD for the purchase of 12 fighter aircraft from Pakistan.
The deal was finalized during Deputy Commander Iraqi Air Force Major General (Pilot) Muhammad Majeed Mahdi Mahmood’s visit to Pakistan.
Pakistan also hosted a major defense exhibition in Iraq’s capital earlier in April this year. On this occasion, Pakistani pilots also flew Multi-role combat aircraft JF-17 which according to media reports impressed the Iraqi leadership.
Important to note, Iraq is not the first country to show an interest in Pakistani fighter jets. Earlier, Argentina agreed to buy 12 JF-17 Block III fighters from Pakistan. In addition, Malaysia is also considering buying Pakistani JF-17s.
What is JF-17?
The JF-17 Thunder is a single-engine multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China.
The builders say that the JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance.
58% of the JF-17 airframe, including its front fuselage, wings, and vertical stabilizer, is produced in Pakistan, whereas 42% is produced in China, with the final assembly taking place in Pakistan.
The PAC JF-17A Block III is a supersonic, multi-role 4+ generation fighter aircraft, with the ability to perform combat air patrol, air interdiction, beyond visual range integrated battle, long-range maritime strikes, standoff range precision ground strikes, anti-radiation SEAD/DEAD missions, and electronic warfare.
JF-17A (Block III) is a further improved single-seat variant of its predecessor Block II. It has a new engine, a new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
It is paired with an Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system. This fighter also has improved avionics. Due to its new engine, it is faster and can exceed the speeds of Mach 2 (2 469 km/h). Its design was finalized in 2016.
The primary air-to-air weapon on the jet is the PL-15 with a range of over 180 kilometers and a NEZ approaching 100 kilometers. It is armed with a single 23 mm GSh-23 or 30 mm GSh-30 twin-barrel cannon. The maximum weapon payload is about 3.7 t. There are five hardpoints and two wingtips for missiles and fuel tanks.
Other features include a large head-up display (HUD), and Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) targeting systems for the PL-10 High Off-Boresight HOBS IR missiles as a secondary air-to-air weapon.