The first day of the Paris International Air Show saw Pakistan make the most surprising announcement, as according to the Pakistan Air Force, it has successfully secured an export order for its newest fighter jet, the JF-17 Thunder.
The jet, manufactured in Pakistan in collaboration with China, is hardly a world-beater. While cheap, at around $25 million a unit its slow and lacks modern avionics, which makes a customer order somewhat surprising.
Khalid Mahmood, Air commodore for the Pakistan Air force and the chief officer responsible for sales and marketing, confirmed “we have signed a contract with an Asian country.”
The name of the ‘friend country’ and the specific number of jets ordered is not being revealed for security purposes.
When asked about what makes the aircraft compelling, the chief project director, Arshad Malik, revealed, “JF-17 contains all the facilities that a latest fighter jet should contain.”
He further stated that “new fighter jets are based on an avionic system, and this jet contains the latest avionics of the world which can combat any 4th generation jet.” He also confirmed that the JF-17 Thunder has been introduced with the latest Pakistani missile system that can attack a target at sea.
Three JF-17 Thunder jets were taken to the Paris show by the Pakistan Air Force. One aircraft will perform flying displays each day, while the other two fighters are on a static display, exhibiting their latest weapons.
Khalid also provided an update on Pakistan’s induction of the type.
So far, 54 examples have been produced and delivered to the Air Force. The first 50 were originally delivered in a Block I configuration, and these are in the process of being updated to a Block II configuration. The Block II setup features improved avionics and better software, and adds a fixed air-to-air refueling probe.
Another 46 aircraft will be delivered in the Block II configuration. A subsequent 50 aircraft, pushing Pakistan’s fleet to 150 aircraft, will have an advanced Block III configuration. These are forecast to be delivered by the end of 2018.