The PAC JF-17 Thunder, or CAC FC-1 Xiaolong, is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance. Its designation “JF-17” by Pakistan is short for “Joint Fighter-17”, while the designation and name “FC-1 Xiaolong” by China means “Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon”.
The JF-17 is to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), complementing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the cost. The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010. As of December 2016, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has manufactured 70 jets in the country for use by the Pakistan Air Force of the Block 1 type, and 33 jets of the Block 2 type.
The Pakistan Air Force also inducted a twin-seater version known as the JF-17B for both enhanced operational capability and training.
Preparations for a more advanced and technologically sophisticated block III version of the aircraft are underway.
JF-17 Thunder Block-III: What’s New?
JF-17 Thunder Block-III is expected to roll out soon in services to Pakistan Air Force, which uses its previous model. The upgrades, under the Chinese dome, have taken the fighter jet to new heights. JF-17, already a formidable weapon, provides an impenetrable defence line to Pakistan.
JF-17 Thunder Block-III 4+ Generation made its maiden flight back in December 2019 and Pak-China jointly built fighter jet proved its might and air superiority all over again. At Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group’s (CAIG) facilities, the first-ever powered up prototype was flown in a test flight hailing some major upgrades and technologies from China’s top of the line J-20 fighter jet.
Experts believe that this upgrade saw some major updates to the electronic gadgets of previous JF-17 Thunder that majorly increased its aerial combat efficiency. Hailing the serial number “3000” JF-17 was jointly developed by China and Pakistan that is used majorly by Pakistan.
According to the reports, the revealed pictures being circulated on social media show that the aircraft is installed with many commercial off-the-shelf technologies produced by state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China
What are the JF-17 Thunder Block-III Major Upgrades?
China and Pakistan have jointly been working on expanding and upgrading the JF-17 and bringing it on par with the best fighter jets of the world being produced in the US and France. Some of the major upgrades JF-17 got are:
- New and a larger holographic wide-angle head-up display.
- Integrated cockpit display similar to J-20.
- Advanced infrared missile approach warning system used by China elite fighter jets.
- KLJ-7A Advanced active electronically scanned array radar system.
- Advanced weapons capability.
- New Engine: The fighter’s new air inlets indicate that a new engine has been installed – possibly an enhanced derivative of the RD-33MK which powers the Russian MiG-35. WS 10A Also An Option
JF-17 Thunder Block-III Expected Weapons
- PL-15 (BVR) Range (300km)
- PL-9C (WVR) Range (22 km)
- PL-8 (WVR)
- RAAD Mk 2 Nuclear Air To Surface Misiile
JF-17 Thunder Block-III Body
JF-17’s body, built keeping in mind the aerodynamic needs of high-end fighter jets, has proven itself in-flight performance and air-frame design but it can easily be improved even further if equipped with modern electronic gadgets. Analysts hold that JF-17 Block-III allows the pilot more situational awareness that allows him/her to focus more on combat rather than flying the aircraft.
How China Contributed to the Development of JF-17?
“China has made several huge achievements in the development and up-gradation of its J-10 & J-20 fighter jets, and as a result have gone through a top-notch technological advancement, which if applied in JF-17 project will give it air superiority over other jets and will ease the burden on the pilot”, Wang Ya’nan, Chief Editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine said.
Wang even compared the cost efficiency of JF-17, if Chinese mature commercial off-the-shelf technologies are used in the project.
Why JF-17 Thunder is So Popular?
JF-17 has been popular in the world as an economical yet far superior choice than its competitors. Many countries have shown interest in buying the 3rd block of the aircraft.
JF-17 Block III is expected to be costlier than its previous variants but its next-generation capabilities raise its potential in the export market. “Many countries have shown interest in buying the upgraded version of JF-17 Thunder”, Wei said without naming any of the potential clients.