Pakistan Air Force (PAF) now has a total of eight JF-17 Thunder aircrafts. Six more aircrafts were recieved this March while two were recieved last year for the celebration of Pakistan Day during the same month.
All of the eight aircrafts according to the officials will be used for testing and evaluation purposes for the air force and are not meant to be inducted as of yet. Four or more JF-17 Thunder aircrafts will show up on the March 23rd, Pakistan Day parade.
JF-17 Thunder aircraft is an advanced multi-role light combat aircraft jointly developed by Chengdu and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex under a strategic collaboration project. The aircraft is designed to be cost-effective and can meet the tactical and strategic needs of the Pakistan Air Force, and various other air forces.
The production facilities have been setup for the aircraft in Pakistan. The first batch of 50 JF-17 Thunder aircrafts will be equipped with the Chinese/Pakistani avionics and missiles, while the later aircrafts are to be equipped with more advanced radars and missiles.
France has offered Pakistan its RC-400 radar and MBDA MICA missile for the aircraft. However, rumour suggests that AESA radar of different choices may finally be the later choice of the Pakistan Air Force and the MBDA Meteor missile too is on the cards.
The serial production of JF-17 Thunder has already started and the production capacity would be gradually taken to 25 aircraft per year by 2011.
The Air Cheif Marshal of the Pakistan Air Force has said that about 60 percent of the aircraft’s frame and 80 percent of its avionics would be manufactured in Pakistan by 2010.
Pakistan has begun negotiations with British, Italian, and French defence firms over potential avionics and other systems for the JF-17 Thunder aircrafts.
Pakistan Air Force hopes to induct 150 aircraft into its inventory in the first phase, under an agreement with the Chinese company, and the total induction could go up to 250 aircrafts.
The JF-17 will form the backbone of Pakistan to replace aging Pakistan’s MiG-21-derived Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5 and Mirage III/V currently in service which are being crashed at an alarming rate. Just today, on March 18 another Mirage III/V fighter plane has said to be crashed in eastern Punjab province. The pilot of the plane ejected safely and no loss of civilian life or property has been reported on ground
The JF-17 Thunder is said to be the main attractive aircraft for the future of the air forces with different high-med tech packages available. Thirteen countries have so far expressed interest in purchasing the JF-17 aircraft are Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Sudan.