An image of the second prototype of Block III of the JF-17 Thunder has been doing the rounds on social media platforms.
The image shows the prototype during flight bearing number ‘3001’ and carrying two PL-10E short-range air-to-air missiles (AAMs), marking the first time a JF-17 has been armed with the infrared (IR)-guided weapon.
This image suggests that the multirole combat aircraft manufactured in collaboration between Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) is ready.
According to different reports, as of December 2020, two prototypes of Block 3 of the JF-17 Thunder have been doing flight tests, one in China and the other in Pakistan.
Some of the features expected in Block 3 of the JF-17 Thunder are NRIET/CETC KLJ-7A Air-cooled Airborne Fire-Control Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that is license-manufactured at the Avionics Production Factory (APF) at PAC, Kamra, a three-axis digital fly-by-wire flight control system, an infrared search, and track (IRST) system. It has a helmet-mounted display and sight (HMD/S) system produced jointly by Pakistan and China, a missile approach warning system (MAWS) similar to the one used on the Chinese J-10C, J-16, and J-20, a new, larger, and thinner holographic wide-angle head-up display (HUD) similar to the one used on the J-10C and J-20, an enhanced electronic warfare management system. In addition, it also features a chin-mounted hardpoint, use of more composites for further weight reduction, a new upgraded Klimov RD-93MA afterburning turbofan with FADEC and increased thrust, and a better thrust-to-weight ratio.
Based on these features, defense experts have described the JF-17 Block 3 as a “fourth-generation plus” fighter jet which costs around $30 million per unit.
The JF-17 Block 3 aircraft are expected to roll out of the production line in late 2021. The PAF had placed an order for 50 JF-17 Block 3 aircraft, deliveries of which are expected to start from early 2022.