Production of the first two of 50 JF-17’s Block 2 on order by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is now well under way at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, with the first expected to fly by the end of the year.
The Block 2 JF-17 has several capability increases over the Block 1s, but the main boost to the PAF as well as to export potential is the installation of an air-to-air refuelling system. One aircraft has been fitted with a refuelling probe, which protrudes from the right side of the fuselage just behind the cockpit, sitting forward of the pilot’s position. It is being used for flight trials.
|JF-17 Block 2|
However, this modification will not appear in Block 2 aircraft until midway through the production at the Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (AMF), probably in early 2016, PAF officials said. Coupled with software enhancements, other new features include an upgrade to the avionics system that works around China’s Nanjing KLJ-7 radar.
As a result, the Block 2s can add the Chinese-designed C-802 anti-ship missile and SD-10A beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile to the Block 1s’ existing armoury, which includes Mk 82/84 dumb bombs and the PL-5-EII short-range air-to-air missile. All the Block 1s will eventually be upgraded with the Block 2 improvements.
With an urgent need to export JF-17s, a two-seater will be built in the Block 2 time frame. The PAF had always said that a two-seater is not urgent, but Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt now admits that a dual seater is a necessity. “We realise that it is required, because the air forces interested in buying JF-17 want one,” he said.
PAF pilots currently converting to JF-17 are accumulating around 25 hours on a JF-17 simulator operational at Kamra, where one of the two operational squadrons is based. Nearly all the Block 1s have now been delivered to the PAF, which has a current requirement for 150 to replace the ageing F-7P and Mirage III/Vs.