Janes Defense Weekly, London based prestigious defense publication, has reported that Myanmar (Burma) is in advanced negotiations with Pakistan to build JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighters. This marks an important forward step in Pakistan’s high tech equipment manufacturing. China-Pakistan cooperation also takes a new regional dimension. Pakistan’s ministry of defense has not commented on this news report.
Earlier Myanmar Air Force (MAF) had concluded a purchase of sixteen JF-17s from Pakistan in 2005. These are multi-role combat aircraft, jointly produced between China and Pakistan, and are available at much more economical prices as compared to the comparable US, French and Russian combat aircraft.
Block-II variants of JF-17 were an improvised version of Block-I, with air-to-air refueling capability and improved avionics and electronics.
Myanmar Air Force sources have revealed to Jane Defense Weekly that MAF is now in advanced negotiations with Pakistan to also licence-build the third-generation fighter. Earlier batch of JF-17’s acquired by Myanmar were of Block-II variant rolled out by Kamra Aeronautical Complex in 2015.
Block-II variants of JF-17 were an improvised version of Block-I, with air-to-air refueling capability and improved avionics and electronics. These 16 JF-17’s of Block-II variant are expected to go into service with Myanmar Air Force (MAF) in second part of 2017.
Republic of the Union of Myanmar, traditionally remembered as Burma, from the days of British Raj is strategically located in South East Asia. Bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand
If this agreement is concluded soon, Myanmar’s bid to manufacture the single-engine combat aircraft – co-developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (CAC) – could mark an important step forward in the Myanmar’s efforts to expand its local defence industry.
As Myanmar Air Force (MAF) phases out its obsolete fleet of F-7M Airguard and A-5C ‘Fantan’ combat aircraft purchased from China in the 1990s, licensed production of the JF-17 Thunder would also mean that the aircraft will likely become the MAF’s workhorse over the coming decades in much the same way as it has moved to prominence within the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
Republic of the Union of Myanmar, traditionally remembered as Burma, from the days of British Raj is strategically located in South East Asia. Bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand; its one third perimeter, around two thousand kilometers provides an uninterrupted coastline. It is considered an important strategic ally of China, though in recent years Obama administration made inroads and attempted opening it up to western influences.
JF-17 now constitutes the mainstay of Pakistan Air Force (PAF). At least 70 JF-17 fighters are in service with the PAF, with the first ones having entered service in 2009. Expectations are that the PAF will induct up to 150 JF-17 Thunder fighters in the coming years.
While Myanmar is interested in latest Block-III variants of JF-17, its unclear whether later deliveries to the MAF will include the far more advanced Block III variant being produced at Kamra since 2016. Jane Defense Weekly claims that Myanmar is seeking to produce the aircraft’s Block III variant.