Five countries in the Middle East are evaluating the JF-17 as an affordable replacement fighter alongside China's Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

The sales opportunities for the programme were described by the head of the Pakistan air force, Air Chief Marshall Rao Qamar Suleman. He was speaking at a press briefing hosted by the PAF and the China Aviation Technology/Import-Export Corporation (CATIC), the government-owned company responsible for Beijing's aerospace defence exports.

He added that the five countries could send pilots to Pakistan to evaluate the single-engine fighter.

He also said he visited the PLAAF in China recently, where he discussed the programme with his Chinese counterparts.

JF-17 Thunder

 © Sharpshot gallery on AirSpace

It has long been known that the PLAAF has followed the JF-17 programme closely, but most industry observers have shared the view that it prefers to focus on replacing older aircraft with the J-10A, J-10B and Shenyang J-11.

ACM Suleman and the other presenters placed great emphasis on their claims about the JF-17's affordability. They claim the aircraft is two to three times cheaper than rivals on a flyaway basis, and that the aircraft is also inexpensive to support.

Separately, PAF Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood, deputy chief project director (operations) for the JF-17 programme, said there is a potential market of around 4,000-5,000 aircraft as air forces seek to replace Mikoyan MiG-21s, MiG-23s, MiG-29s and Northrop F-5s.

"There is no plane that gives this much capability at this cost," added Air Cdre Mahmood.

He said that in PAF service the aircraft has completed 10,000 sorties. The PAF has two active squadrons of 16-18 aircraft each, with the third squadron to be activated in the coming months. The PAF has confirmed it will buy 150 aircraft, but this could run to 250.

He said about half of the airframe and more than half of the avionics are produced in Pakistan.

Source: Flight Daily News