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JF-17 Thunder Fighter Jet To Get Block-2 Upgrades From 2012

The JF-17 Thunder fighter, co-developed by China’s Avic and the Pakistan
Air Force (PAF), is to receive improvements that will start being
produced with the Block-2 version from next year.

The enhancements will effect the data link and electronic warfare
capabilities. An air-to-air re refueling capability will be added, as
will be new guided weapons. A two-seat variant is being developed, too.
The current program schedule calls for the Pakistan-based factory to
deliver the JF-17 Block-2 to the PAF from mid-2012 to 2015. Then, a
Block-3 version is planned from 2016. Block-1 aircraft are being
delivered until the middle of next year.

PAF Air Chief Marshall Rao Qamar Suleiman said marketing efforts focus
on those countries needing to replace old fighters such as the MiG-21,
early Mirage, F-5 and Phantom types. The program’s target export
countries can be found in Latin America, Africa and Asia. “We offer
performance comparable to U.S. and European fighters when it comes to
radar, dogfight missile, range and BVR [beyond visual range] capabilities, for one third of the cost,” Suleiman claimed.

So far, five countries are said to have taken a close look at the
aircraft. China itself is currently evaluating the JF-17 and a decision
is expected “shortly.” Avic and the PAF expect to sell “between 300 and
500 JF-17s” over the next 10 years.

The in-service fleet has logged a total of 10,000 flight hours with the
PAF. In China, the JF-17 is also known as the FC-1 Xiaolong.