The Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 Thunder fighter has secured its first confirmed export deal.
“A contract has been signed with an Asian country,” says Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood, the Pakistan air force officer who leads sales and marketing efforts for the type.
Citing client sensitivities, he declined to specify the customer and the number of aircraft it will obtain. Deliveries will start in 2017.
He says that sales for the JF-17, which is targeted for developing nations, have been held up by political turmoil in several Middle Eastern countries.
The aircraft is making its flying debut at this year’s air show. Pakistan’s air force has brought three examples this year. One will appear on the static display, one will appear in the flying display, and the third will serve as a backup.
The JF-17 contingent at Paris this year is 80 strong, representing a significant marketing push. Khalid says the show is a good venue for meeting prospective customers from French speaking countries.
He says that 11 countries are looking at the type, which mirrors previous comments made by Chinese defence export agency Catic, which also markets the aircraft, and Pakistan air force officials.
Khalid also provided an update of Pakistan’s induction of the type. So far, 54 examples have been delivered. The first 50 were originally delivered in a Block I configuration, and these are in the process of being updated to a Block II standard. The Block II configuration features improved avionics and better software, and adds a fixed air-to-air refuelling probe.
An additional 46 aircraft will be delivered in the Block II configuration. A subsequent 50 aircraft, which will push Pakistan’s fleet to 150 examples, will have a Block III configuration. These will all be delivered by the end of 2018.
The aircraft’s developers are still working out the specifications of the Block III aircraft, but upgrades could include an active electronically scanned array (AESA) or Passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar, says Khalid. The configuration could also include an infrared search and track (IRST) sensor, stations under the forward fuselage for various pods, and expanded precision weapons capabilities.
A two-seat variant is also planned, which will serve mainly as a trainer. Pakistan produces 58% of the airframe and China 42%. The JF-17 is powered by a single Klimov RD-93 engine.