Pakistan-China jointly developed JF-17B Thunder jet takes maiden test flight
A modified version of the lightweight JF-17 warplane, jointly manufactured by Pakistan and China, has taken its maiden flight, the Pakistani military says.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) announced the news in a statement on Friday, adding that the test-phase flight had been successfully conducted in a military airfield near Chengdu, the capital city of China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, earlier in the day.
The dual-seat JF-17B “is currently entering the testing phase, which is a major milestone towards self-reliance,” further read the statement.
It added that the new version of the warplane “will further enhance the advanced combat training of PAF fighter pilots on this indigenous war fighting machine.”
Since 1999, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) have been jointly manufacturing the single-engine, multi-role JF-17 combat aircraft, the first test flight of which was carried out in 2003. The first JF-17 warplane entered into PAF’s service in 2009.
The warplane is known in Pakistan as JF-17, short for Joint Fighter 17, while in China it has been named FC-1 Xiaolong, which means Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon, production of which initiated last year. The PAF currently has a fleet of over 80 JF-17s, which constitutes its backbone.
The modified version of these warplanes, dubbed JF-17B, has improved avionics, air-to-air refueling ability, data connection and increased electronic warfare capability. Furthermore, it can also carry more load than the previous model.
Each JF-17B is capable of carrying up to 3,630 kilograms of weapons, can reach speeds of up to 2,200 kilometers per hour, and is able to cover a radius of 1,350 kilometers for combat purposes.
Pakistan tries to modernize its air fleet in a bid to compete with the Indian Air Force, which currently possess over 2,000 aircraft, compared to the PAF’s fleet of some 920 planes and choppers.
China has long been a strong military, economic and diplomatic supporter of Pakistan, and it is considered Islamabad’s largest trade and defense partner. The pair plan to elevate the current volume of cooperation to as much as $20 billion amid execution of the $51-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a series of roads, railways, pipelines, hydropower plants and other development projects, being built from Xinjiang Province in China to the port city of Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan.
Pakistan-India relations deteriorated last September after a deadly attack on an army base in the Indian-controlled Kashmir. India blamed the incident on Pakistan-based militant groups. Both countries claim the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir in full, but rule parts of it.