The first Block 2 JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft made its maiden flight from the Pakistan Aeronautical Company (PAC) facility at Kamra on 9 February.
The aircraft (serial number 2P01) made three more successful flights before being taken to the paint shop in mid-February. The test flights came as a boost as PAC continues to look for a first export customer for its platform.
Air Commodore Ahsan Rafiq, Deputy Chief Project Director (Operations) JF-17 and a former commanding officer of the JF-17 Test and Evaluation Unit, described the Block 2 version as “an upgraded Block 1 with an air-to-air refuelling (AAR) probe, enhanced oxygen system [to allow the pilot to stay in the air longer], and improved electronic countermeasures system (ECS)”.
|JF-17 Block 2|
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has a contract for 50 Block 2 JF-17s but as Air Cdre Ahsan pointed out, “the full AAR system will not appear until the 29th jet, which should fly later this year [at Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in China].”
In a further development that sends a clear signal that PAC and Chinese marketing partner CATIC intend business in the international arena, the Block 2 JF-17 will also have a two-seater version, which is now being developed at Chengdu according to the PAF’s requirements.
“We know potential customers would like to see a two-seater, although it is not such a big deal for the PAF, which started flying several types, [A-5, F-6, F-7P and F-7PG] without a training version,” Air Cdre Ahsan said. “This will give us the chance to show potential suitors how the jet can perform in the air.”