China will expedite the delivery of 50 Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) JF-17 Thunder aircraft production kits to Pakistan, part of Islamabad's 150 firm orders for the single-engined fighter.
The Pakistan air force has confirmed the expedited delivery but declined to comment on the specific timing, or when the new aircraft will become operational. However, media reports have suggested that Pakistan hopes to receive the kits within the next six months.
The air force said that 30 JF-17s are now operational, up from 18 in early March. It also confirmed that it has firm orders for 150 of the type. This is 100 more than in November, when the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation said Pakistan had signed for 50. The JF-17 is 52% produced by the PAC.
Pakistan hopes to buy up to a total of 200 JF-17s to replace a number of types, such as the Chengdu F-7, Dassault Mirage III and Mirage 5, and the Nanchang A-5, the last of which was decommissioned in April.
Pakistani and international media have reported that the expedited JF-17 delivery was arranged by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a visit to China, Pakistan's partner in the JF-17 programme.
Gilani's visit came after a 2 May raid by US Special Forces that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The USA did not inform Pakistan of the raid, and the inability of Pakistan's military to detect the incursion raised questions in Islamabad about preparedness.