The Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 is making its second Paris appearance at this year's show, appearing in the static park and in the flying display.
The single-engined type has had an eventful four years since its last appearance at the show. In 2015, Flight Daily News broke the story that it had received its first export order. While officials declined to discuss the customer, this later turned out to be Myanmar, which received its first examples in 2018.
In January 2018 an obscure line in Nigeria's 2018 budget allocation document indicated that N13.1 billion ($36 million) would be earmarked as partial payment for three JF-17s. The payment would also cover support equipment and spares. Subsequent reports have indicated that the deal is moving forward.
The Block III version of the aircraft is under development, according to Chinese media reports quoting aircraft designer Yang Wei.
One major development with the Block III will be the installation of an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. At Airshow China in Zhuhai in November 2018, two new AESA sets, both with apparent applications on the JF-17.
China Electronics Technology Group (CETC) displayed a model of its KLJ-7A AESA radar, which was developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET).
While the KLJ-7A, which appears aimed the Chengdu JF-17, first appeared in 2016, the company also displayed a new AESA set. Unlike the KLJ-7A, which requires a mechanical arm to move the array, the new set is fixed on slanted panel. It also features arrays looking to either side.
AVIC promoted what it claims to be the world’s first air-cooled active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for combat aircraft. A company video showed that the type can be quickly installed on the JF-17.
The JF-17 is powered by a single Russian Klimov RD-93 engine, and is pitched as a low-cost fighter for developing world air forces. In response to customer requests, a two-seat variant, the JF-17B was developed, and had its maiden flight in May 2017.
Apart from the extra seat, one significant change is a dorsal fin containing an additional fuel tank. This means the JF-17B’s fuel load is comparable to the single seater.
Imagery from China indicates that another difference is the vertical stabiliser. Apart from appearing larger, it also rises at a shallower angle.
Flight International's 2019 World Air Force's directory indicates that the Pakistan Air Force has 98 in-service JF-17s in the Block I and Block II configuration, with additional orders estimated at 62 examples.