China and Pakistan’s JF-17 May Soon Be Most Widely Operated Combat Jet

  • China and Pakistan collectively developed the JF-17 fight jet, which first entered service in 2007.
  • As of October 2021, some 145 JF-17s have been in service with Pakistan, Myanmar, and Nigeria.
  • Several different international locations have expressed curiosity within the jet, and its numbers are poised to develop.

In early November, three JF-17 fighters of the Pakistani Air Force conducted aerial demonstrations at the Bahrain International Air Show.

At the identical time, China was showcasing the JF-17 on the annual China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zuhai, China.

The occasions have been the most recent makes an attempt by China and Pakistan to market their collectively developed fourth-generation fighter jet to worldwide clients.

The JF-17 is simply in service with three international locations — Pakistan, Myanmar, and Nigeria — which operated a complete of 145 as of October 2021, based on Aviation Week.

At the time, Aviation Week information confirmed that complete was set to rise to 185 JF-17s by mid-decade — progress that may make it probably the most broadly operated Chinese fight jet in service abroad by the tip of 2023.

JF-17 Thunder

Pakistan Air Force JF-17 Thunder fighter jet

A Pakistan Air Force JF-17 takes off at a base in northern Pakistan in June 2013.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Developed by China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, the JF-17 first flew in 2003. The single-seat, single-engine jet is thought in Pakistan because the JF-17 Thunder and because the FC-1 Xiaolong in China.

With a service ceiling of fifty,000 ft and a high pace of about 1,200 mph, the JF-17 can carry out a number of missions, together with aerial intercept and floor assault. It can carry roughly 7,000 kilos of ordnance on seven hardpoints and is armed with a single twin-barrel 23 mm autocannon.

The first few JF-17s have been made fully in China, however Pakistan now does many of the manufacturing. At current, 58% of the aircraft is made in Pakistan and 42% in China.

Despite its joint growth, solely Pakistan selected to introduce it into service, formally doing so in 2007. The jet is supposed to exchange Pakistan’s ageing fleet of Nanchang A-5, Chengdu F-7, and Mirage III and V assault and fighter jets.

Pakistan air force fighter jet

Pakistani air drive personnel verify a JF-17 on the Zhuhai Airshow in China’s Guangdong province in October 2018.


With no less than 125 in service, the JF-17 is the spine of the PAF. They have reportedly been used to conduct airstrikes towards militants in northwestern Pakistan and, based on one report, to down an Iranian-made drone in southwestern Pakistan in 2017.

Current and retired Pakistani air drive officers also said a JF-17 shot down an Indian MiG-21 throughout an air-to-air skirmish in February 2019. (India said its jet was downed by a Pakistani F-16.)

The JF-17 has been upgraded a number of occasions since its introduction. The most up-to-date model, the Block III, first flew in late 2019 and options a number of appreciable enhancements, together with a further hardpoint, a quad-redundant digital fly-by-wire system, and an lively electronically scanned array radar.

Pakistan considers the Block III JF-17 a 4.5-generation jet, and its air drive plans to accumulate at least 50 of them, the primary of which arrived in January. The jets have already been seen carrying certainly one of China’s most superior air-to-air missiles.

Affordable and interesting

JF-17 Thunder fighter jet

A JF-17 on the Paris Air Show in June 2015.

REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Pakistan presently operates probably the most JF-17s. Myanmar, the primary worldwide buyer, operates six and Nigeria has three.

Ranging from $15 million to $25 million every, the JF-17 is significantly cheaper than just about each different fourth-generation jet available on the market. Add-ons that improve its lethality, like targeting pods, makes it enticing to international locations with low protection budgets that need multirole fight jets.

“Its not innovative, however it’s a dependable performer,” Timothy Heath, a senior worldwide and protection researcher on the Rand Corporation suppose tank, informed Insider.

“This will not be an plane that’s designed to compete head-to-head with the F-22, so it does not want probably the most refined engines and components,” Heath stated. “It’s an affordable multirole price range plane that’s appropriate and most likely most interesting to creating international locations which might be on the lookout for a fundamental plane to both bomb their very own individuals, like insurgents, or to hold out fundamental protection towards similar-type international locations.”

Pakistani JF-17 Thunder combat jet

A Pakistani JF-17 at a protection exhibition in Karachi in November 2016.

RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP through Getty Images

Several international locations have expressed curiosity within the JF-17. Iraq has reportedly agreed to purchase at least 12, and Egypt has said it is fascinated with buying JF-17s as a part of expanded protection cooperation with Pakistan. Azerbaijan has stated for years that it desires JF-17s, and each Bolivia and Argentina are contemplating the jet.

Argentina has additionally sought to develop its native fighter manufacturing. Should it obtain a license to construct JF-17s domestically, it may make the jet more appealing to its neighbors.

Expanding JF-17 gross sales may assist China improve its share of the marketplace for “value arms” — weapons which might be much less refined however nonetheless efficient — amongst middle- and lower-income international locations, which have lengthy relied on Russia for jets, armored autos, and heavy artillery.

But promoting extra JF-17s might not translate into larger dependence on Chinese army {hardware}. Many international locations nonetheless covet higher-end Western-built plane and are typically cautious of changing into reliant on a single provider, which is why many function a mixture of US, European, Russian, and Chinese plane.

“That’s a reasonably frequent technique within the creating world,” Heath stated. “Most international locations need autonomy, so they have an inclination to wish to have various suppliers, though that does complicate their skill to function all these overseas techniques.”

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