In recent developments, Iraq has decided to purchase 12 JF-17 Thunder Block III fighter jets from Pakistan. According to reports, the defense deal was approved by both the Iraqi and Pakistani governments, and a formal agreement is expected to be signed in Islamabad next month.
After several rounds of negotiations between Iraq and Pakistan on fighter jets, Iraq’s government approved the amount of 664 million USD for the purchase of 12 fighter aircrafts from Pakistan. The deal was finalized during Deputy Commander Iraqi Air Force Major General (Pilot) Muhammad Majeed Mahdi Mahmood’s visit to Pakistan.
Important to note, Iraq is not the first country to show an interest in Pakistani fighter jets. Earlier, Argentina agreed to buy 12 JF-17 Block III fighters from Pakistan. In addition, Malaysia is also considering buying Pakistani JF-17s.
Pakistani Journalist and Strategic Analyst Huzaifah Farid took to Twitter on Tuesday to say that the Malaysia-Pakistan JF-17 deal is underway.
“Pakistan’s third-generation JF-17 Thunder deal with Malaysia on the way,” he wrote, posting a picture of the PAC China JF 17.
صفقة طائرة الرعد الباكستانية( JF-17 Thunder ) الجيل الثالث مع ماليزيا في الطريق pic.twitter.com/VZkTa14YSi
— حذيفة فريد Huzaifah Farid (@PM_Huzaifah) September 21, 2021
If true, this is not surprising, since the latest reports from earlier in 2021 have suggested already that Pakistani JF-17 Block III is competing with its South Korean counterpart as the last two choices that the Malaysian administration had chosen to buy the aircraft from.
The EurAsian Times reported in April that China-Pakistani JF-17 fighter among the top choice along with Korean FA-50 is the finalists.
“According to The Korea Times, Malaysian officials have confirmed that the Pakistani jet is competing with its South Korean counterpart for the requirement,” the news article read.
“Despite interest from a diverse group of manufacturers, the FA-50 and JF-17 are the finalists,” an unnamed official told the Korean newspaper.
Later in June, the leading defense technology media outlet Defense News also reported that the Southeast Asian country has released a long-awaited tender for a new light combat aircraft and advanced fighter trainer, three weeks after accusing China of sending 16 military aircraft over the South China Sea near Malaysian airspace.
Malaysia reportedly was seeking 18 FLIT-LCA (Fighter Lead In Trainer-Light Combat Aircraft) to replace its older fleet with modern fighters.
Malaysia had previously issued a request for information in December 2018 from various manufacturers for its FLIT-LCA program, which reportedly garnered eight responses, Defense News noted.
The platforms put forward were the Boeing T-7 Red Hawk, South Korea’s KAI FA-50, the Italian Leonardo M-346 Master, India’s HAL Tejas, China-Pakistani PAC JF-17 Thunder, China’s Hongdu L-15, and Russia’s Yakolev Yak-130 and the Czech Aero Vodochody L-39NG.
While many agree that JF-17 Block III makes an excellent contender, being a cheaper and much effective aircraft, some are of the view that Malaysia might not favor using a Chinese aircraft against China, except for training the RMAF(Royal Malaysian Air Force) for what to expect from the enemy side.
It is worth mentioning that recently, Argentina and Nigeria both have placed orders for Pakistani JF-17 Block III fighters.
What is JF-17?
The JF-17 Thunder is a single-engine multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China.
The builders say that the JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance.
58% of the JF-17 airframe, including its front fuselage, wings, and vertical stabilizer, is produced in Pakistan, whereas 42% is produced in China, with the final assembly taking place in Pakistan.
The PAC JF-17A Block III is a supersonic, multi-role 4+ generation fighter aircraft, with the ability to perform combat air patrol, air interdiction, beyond visual range integrated battle, long-range maritime strikes, standoff range precision ground strikes, anti-radiation SEAD/DEAD missions, and electronic warfare, Aerosint Division PSF wrote.
JF-17A (Block III) is a further improved single-seat variant of its predecessor Block II. It has a new engine, a new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
It is paired with an Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system. This fighter also has improved avionics. Due to its new engine, it is faster and can exceed the speeds of Mach 2 (2 469 km/h). Its design was finalized in 2016.
The primary air-to-air weapon on the jet is the PL-15 with a range of over 180 kilometers and a NEZ approaching 100 kilometers. It is armed with a single 23 mm GSh-23 or 30 mm GSh-30 twin-barrel cannon. The maximum weapon payload is about 3.7 t. There are five hardpoints and two wingtips for missiles and fuel tanks.
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Other features include a large head-up display (HUD), and Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) targeting systems for the PL-10 High Off-Boresight HOBS IR missiles as a secondary air-to-air weapon.