Islamabad - As the PAF announced that Pakistan has successfully met the annual production target of JF-17 Thunder aircraft, the chief of the air force said the county is in negotiations with the United States to procure the latest F-16 fighter jets.

The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex yesterday rolled out the 16th Block 2 JF-17 aircraft and formally handed it over to the Pakistan Air force (PAF), marking the completion of four squadrons.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman attended the ceremony with Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain attending as the chief guest.

“We are in talks with US defence officials to get some latest F-16s but the deal may take some time,” the Air chief told media persons after the ceremony, without specifying the number of jets the country was trying to procure. By the year 2020 the PAF will say “goodbye to some of its old fighter jets including the Mirage”, he added.

In his address at the ceremony, the Air Chief expressed satisfaction over the production and quality level of the JF-17 Thunder and said it is at par with the F-16 in terms of performance and operations. He praised the professional competence and commitment displayed by PAC personnel in meeting the milestones of the JF-17 programme and urged them to continue their best efforts in pursuit of excellence.

Minister Tanveer Hussain in his address reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment towards promoting self-reliance in defence production and thanked the government of China for its unrelenting support.

“I appreciate the vital role played by our time-tested Chinese friends for the success of the JF-17 program. Their support to Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra and so many other projects is cherished and highly valued by every Pakistani,” he said.

A PAF spokesperson said that Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) has achieved its annual production goal. In a statement, the spokesperson stated that authorities have decided to increase aeronautical complex’s production capabilities.

Earlier in September, Kamra complex had made the Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft operational on half the cost as compared to foreign companies. The aircraft had been damaged in an attack by terrorists during on Kamra aeronautical complex. As a result, $15 million were saved due to the indigenous repair of the aircraft. Feasibility study of Gwadar deep waters shipyard was also completed.

PAC Kamra is responsible for the maintenance of all PAF operational assets. In 2010, the Chief of the Air Staff at the time, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman had said the aircraft would be the mainstay of PAF’s operations, multiply its operational capacity and enable it to conduct day and night multi-role operations which had become imperative in the prevailing global and regional situation.

As the PAF announced that Pakistan has successfully met the annual production target of JF-17 Thunder aircraft, the chief of the air force said the county is in negotiations with the United States to procure the latest F-16 fighter jets.

The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex yesterday rolled out the 16th Block 2 JF-17 aircraft and formally handed it over to the Pakistan Air force (PAF), marking the completion of four squadrons.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman attended the ceremony with Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain attending as the chief guest.

“We are in talks with US defence officials to get some latest F-16s but the deal may take some time,” the Air chief told media persons after the ceremony, without specifying the number of jets the country was trying to procure. By the year 2020 the PAF will say “goodbye to some of its old fighter jets including the Mirage”, he added.

Operational history

The JF-17 Thunder is a single-engine multi-role fighter jet and was jointly developed by China and Pakistan. Its development started in 1999 and the maiden flight was conducted in 2003.

The initial Block 1 JF-17s were received in 2007, with production of the upgraded Block 2 JF-17s started in 2013. The upgraded models have upgraded avionics, air-to-air refuelling capability, data link, enhanced electronic warfare capability and enhanced load carrying ability.

The JF-17 can be equipped with air-to-air and air-to-ground ordinance. The aircraft mounts both short-range infra-red air to air missiles along with longer ranged radar-guided BVR missiles, an essential capability for a frontline interceptor. The aircraft can carry 8,000lbs of ordinance on 7 external hardpoints. The JF-17 is a capable platform, and is on its way to form the backbone of the PAF. It was reported that between 250 and 300 aircraft will be inducted into the air force in order to phase out the ageing fleet of some other aircraft models that are still in operation.–Agencies