Home South Asia Pakistan JF17 takes off: Malaysia, Iran & Egypt interested in block 3

JF17 takes off: Malaysia, Iran & Egypt interested in block 3

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The latest variant of the joint Pakistan-China fighter JF17 has been spiking interests in many states around the world. While sales have been approved for Nigeria, recent reports suggest that both Malaysia and Egypt are looking at JF17 Block 3 with interest.

The JF17 is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. Its Block 1 and Block 2 variants are in use by the Pakistan Air Force while the much more advanced Block 3 variant is progressing fast.

A Malaysian military delegation visited the IDEAS exhibition for the first time. According to reports, the Malaysian government is in “preliminary talks” with Pakistan to buy the multi-role JF-17.

Alan Warnes writing for Shephard News has highlighted the keen interest of Egyptian officials in the fighter aircraft. According to Warnes, the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) is currently reviewing the progress of the PAC/Chengdu JF-17 Thunder. At EDEX 2018 in Cairo, Shephard has learned that representatives from the EAF held a meeting with AVIC officials at Zhuhai Air Show in early November. They were appraised on the progress on the Block 3 variant of the JF17.

While Egypt had already expressed interest as early as 2015 it has put off buying the aircraft for many reasons. According to analysts, the earlier blocks of JF 17 were not that attractive for Cairo. At that time they could afford to buy more advanced aircraft like the Rafale, F16, F15, Eurofighter Typhoon and others. But recently, Cairo has fallen on hard financial times. In this context, JF-17 Block 3 has the advantage of containing various advanced systems in a small package with the added features of maintainability, low cost of purchase and low cost of operations.

Read more: Native air warriors: JF-17 vs HAL Teja

Another Middle Eastern Nation, the Islamic Republic of Iran is considering the purchase of the JF-17 Thunder fighter jets to progressively replace its aging F-14 and MiG-29 fighter jets.

According to Muzammil Hatami, officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced an upcoming deal with Pakistan for an purchase of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets during the IDEAS 2018 exhibition.

“IRGC [Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] general giving remarks (to induct JF17 Thunder next year in Iranian air force fleet) after visiting Pakistan made fighter jet JF-17 Thunder fighter at 10th IDEAS exhibition in Karachi Pakistan,” said Muzammil Hatami.

Iran has long been in search of a replacement for its aging 3rd generation fighter jets. After decades of financial and technological strangulation, Iran has been steadily trying to rebuild its air force. Shortly before, Iran counted to sign a contract with Russia to buy the Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets. But because of the influence of the United States and several European countries, the deal never took place.

The JF17 Block 3 is considered to be the most probable aircraft for sales abroad mainly due to its advanced nature. JF-17 production has been split into three production blocks: Block I, Block II, and Block III.

Malaysia also has shown a keen interest in the JF-17 Thunder at Defense exhibition IDEAS 2018 that took place in Karachi. A Malaysian military delegation visited the IDEAS exhibition for the first time. According to reports, the Malaysian government is in “preliminary talks” with Pakistan to buy the multi-role JF-17.

According to observers, What perhaps could make the JF-17 particularly attractive to the RMAF is that its engine is also used in the Mig-29 and for which the service already has repair and maintenance facilities in place. This would further reduce the overall operational cost of the new aircraft for the cash-strapped Malaysian military.

While expectations are high, there are many factors that can act as spoilers for the sales of JF17 aircraft. Tensions between China and Malaysia, for example, can play a crucial role in the outcome of these talks.

Read more: Pakistan’s Defense Production: More Efficient than India, Why?

The JF17 Block 3 is considered to be the most probable aircraft for sales abroad mainly due to its advanced nature. JF-17 production has been split into three production blocks: Block 1, Block 2, and Block 3. Block 1 and 2 aircraft fly with the NRIET’s older KLJ-7 X-band fire control radar. JF-17 Block 3 aircraft will not only feature the new AESA radar system but also be fitted with a new electronic warfare system and an improved avionics suite overall.


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