The Chengdu/Pakistan Aernautical Complex JF-17 fighter is to get an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which is expected to boost its export prospects.

The KLJ-7A AESA radar developed by the Nanjing Research Institutie of Electronics Technology (NRIET) will be installed on the single-engined type, which is operated by the Pakistan air force, says NRIET's head Hu Mingchun in a China Daily report.

A mockup of the KLJ-7A was displayed by China Electronics Technology Group at the Zhuhai air show in 2016.

"Our product will tremendously extend the fighter jet's detection range, giving it a much longer sight that will help it detect the enemy's aircraft before they do, and this is very important because in real combat if you see first, you fire first," says Hu.

"The radar is capable of tracking dozens of targets and engaging several of them simultaneously. It also has a good jamming-resistant capacity that keeps the plane away from enemy's electronic interference."

Replacing the aircraft's mechnically-scanned KLJ-7 radar with an AESA set is a key element in the JF-17's Block III configuration, which also features an updated cockpit and better avionics. The radar could also be used to upgrade in-service aircraft in the Block I and II configuration.

Adding AESA is expected to boost the type's export prospects. Although Pakistan and China's export firm CATIC have actively promoted the JF-17 on the international market for years, success has been limited.

At the Paris air show in June 2015, a Pakistani air force official told FlightGlobal that a "contract had been signed" with an Asian country. The Asian country has yet to be officially named, but is believed to be Myanmar. Images on Chinese social media have shown a JF-17 in Myanmar air force markings.

Nigeria's proposed 2018 budget document confirmed that the African nation will obtain JF-17s, with N13.1 billion ($36 million) will be earmarked as partial payment for three of the fighter jets. The payment will also cover support equipment and spares.

In the China Daily story, Hu called on Beijing to increase its support for Chinese arms makers on the international market. He adds that a major focus of the NRIET has been developing radar systems that can detect stealth aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin F-22.

Powered by the Klimov RD-93 engine, the JF-17 is pitched as a low-cost fighter for developing world air forces. Following feedback from prospective customers, a two seat version was developed, which is now undergoing testing.