Pakistan’s JF-17 Block III Prototype Fighter Makes Maiden Flight in China

DESPARDES (Updated) — The first Block III prototype of Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder multirole combat aircraft has made its maiden flight with reports that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) currently intends to procure 50 JF-17 Block IIIs.

Block III is the upgraded version of JF-17 Thunder fighters.

They feature some of the technologies of China’s stealth fighter J-20 as well, but not stealth, say Pakistani experts — Chinese defense experts equate J-20 with US’ F-35, the Global Times reported.

According to one of Pakistani defense official, “next 6 months should be more revealing” about the JF-17 Black III aircraft.

He says:

  1. Stealth aircraft are designed and built from skeleton onward. JF 17 is a conventionally designed and built (materials) aircraft and will remain so. Efforts can be made to to reduce its East cross section.
  2. Even specialized stealth aircraft like F 35, F 22, J20, lose their stealth once weapons and ordinance are hung under the wings and their belly

China currently is the only country in the region to have stealth aircraft.

According to Jane’s 360, the single-seat JF-17 Block III aircraft took to the skies on 15 December from Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group’s (CAIG) production facility in the Chinese city of Chengdu, with the first images of the event appearing some two weeks later on Chinese online forums.

The JF-17 Thunder, earlier named as FC-1 Xiaolong, was a single-engine multi-role light fighter jet jointly produced by the two countries for several years with engines supplied by Russia.

Last week, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra completed production of the first eight twin-seat JF-17B Thunder multirole combat aircraft on order for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

These were rolled out in a record time of five months, according to a PAF statement.

The version (JF-17 Block III appears to be the result of a comprehensive upgrade of the aircraft and is set to include a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar/

“From the few images that have emerged so far – which show the aircraft armed with two short-range air-to-air-missiles (AAMs) – the most visible changes in the Block III variant are a new wide-angle holographic head-up display – similar to the one used in China’s fifth-generation J-20 fighter aircraft – and an imaging infrared (IIR)-based missile approach warning system”.