Pakistan to counter new Indian fighters with JF-17 Thunder

Pakistan is ready to counter Lockheed Martin’s F-21 offer to India with JF-17 Thunder Block II multirole combat aircraft. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had placed an order for the JF-17 Thunder aircraft in late 2017. The aircraft will be delivered to the PAF by late June.

Air Chief Marshall Mujahid Anwar Khan said they are also keen on JF-17 Thunder Block III aircraft. The product of it is expected to begin later in 2019. Khan said the air force will make a decision on one of the two new Chinese AESA (airborne electronically scanned-array) radars. He added that they are currently evaluating the aircraft. “We hope to have the aircraft operating with the new radar by March 2020.”

According to sources, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) has produced 50 Block I aircraft and 62 Block II JF-17s to date including the 12 Block II jets ordered in 2017. Presently, the PAF has 85 JF-17 Block I and II operationally deployed.

Sources say the F-17 Block III aircraft will be fitted with a new electronic warfare system, upgraded avionics. It also includes a three-axis fly-by-wire digital flight control system, a helmet-mounted display, sight system and Pakistan’s first Chinese-made AESA.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force is not too far behind. Lockheed Martin, the United States aerospace giant, has offered to sign an exclusive deal with India for F-21 fighter jets. The jet manufacturer claims that if India agrees, it will not sell the aircraft to any other country.

An official statement by Lockheed Martin said it is committed to strategic, long-term international defence partnerships with India. “Our proposed partnerships with India are ideally suited to not just meet, but exceed India’s capability and defence-industrial needs.” Lockheed Martin has noted India’s pressing ‘need for advanced, scalable defence capabilities’ and proposed a ‘game-changing’ defence partnership.

Pakistan and India are geared to upgrade their aircraft following the February dogfight which nearly turned into a full-fledged war.