Block 3 variant of JF-17 Current Affairs - 2020
China has delivered the first overhauled multi-role JF-17 Thunder fighter jet the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The delivery was part of a project undertaken by two nations more than a decade ago for development and manufacture of the aircraft.
- In recent years JF-17 has become a mainstay of PAF when after US has restricted its sales of F-16 war planes post 1990 arms embargo imposed on Pakistan under Pressler Amendment. Pakistan is reported to have over 100 JF-17 planes with more in pipeline.
- More than a decade ago China and Pakistan had begun joint development and manufacture of single-engine light JF-17 jets. In 2007 Beijing delivered its first batch and a number of them were later commissioned by PAF. After over a decade of use, it was time for first JF-17s to undergo overhauls and first overhaul started in November 2017 after a contract was signed between two nations in 2016.
- The JF-17s jet were reassembled and delivered to its Pakistani client by Changsha 5712 Aircraft Industry Co Ltd under state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) in March. This is also the first time that AVIC has overhauled a made-for-export third generation fighter, or fourth generation fighter.
- Although standard, regular maintenance could be done by military itself but due to higher complexity an overhaul generally needs to be conducted by designated and more capable supplier.
- Pakistan sent some of its trainees to China, who built close communication with their counterpart and it was observed that since standards and procedures for overhaul were already established so future overhauls on other JF-17s could be undertaken by Pakistani personnel itself.
- Overhaul Includes: major maintenance, features repairs and replacement of old components and also includes airframe and engine. A Block 3 variant of JF-17 is also under development which is expected to be much more powerful than the previous two blocks due to newly developed active electronically scanned array radar by China.
- This overhaul marks an important milestone in the ‘JF-17 project’ undertaken. This is because it represented trial-and-error phase of project and also provided desired experience in establishing standards for other JF-17 overhauls in nearby
- Under framework of China-Pakistan cooperation Pakistan’s aviation industry will continue to develop.
- Such an overhaul can ensures flight safety even after years of use. It might also equip aircraft with newer technologies that enhance its capability, or prolong lifespan of aircraft.
- Though China has made significant strides in avionics and developed new range of war planes including stealth fighters, it is yet to develop engines for its planes, including JF-17 and mostly rely on Russian supplies.
- JF17 is part of close China-Pakistan defence cooperation which China has become a major supplier of arms to Pakistan. China is also currently building four new modern naval warships for Pakistan.