The final three Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) JF-17 Thunder Block II multi-role combat aircraft are set to be delivered to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) by late June, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported.
The aircraft are part of an order placed by PAF in late 2017 for an additional 12 platforms that are currently on the Aircraft Manufacturing Factory’s (AMF) final assembly line at PAC Kamra.
Production of the Block III variant is expected to begin later this year , PAF Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan told Jane’s, adding that the air force “will make a decision on one of the two new Chinese AESA [airborne electronically scanned-array] radars we are currently evaluating for these aircraft”.
He noted that, although supportability and cost will be factors in the decision, the service hopes to have the aircraft operating with the new radar by March 2020.
The Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology’s KLJ-7A radar is being marketed by China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) with air-cooling and liquid-cooling options. The second contender is Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute (LETRI), which offers an air-cooling AESA radar known as the LKF601E.
Meanwhile, the Aircraft Repair Factory (ARF) at PAC Kamra recently completed its first 1,000th-hour inspection on a JF-17. This comes after PAC Kamra and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC), which co-developed the fighter, worked on two JF-17s each to develop the working procedures.
The PAF has also taken over Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport, located on the outskirts of Rawalpindi.
PAF’s Base Nur Khan, which had previously shared the runway and taxiways with the airport, is now responsible for the large passenger terminal and the adjacent ramp where the airliners once parked.
The large apron is now home to No 10 Squadron’s four Il-78 multirole tanker transport aircraft, which can now taxi to the runway without having to manoeuvre around the PAF’s other aircraft. In the near future the PAF’s passenger terminal, which is currently housed inside a small building in the base’s complex, will also be relocated.
There are several shelter areas at the airport that are used for drills or high levels of alert. During the recent stand-off with India, known locally as Operation ‘Swift Retort’, a detachment of PAF JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft were deployed to the base to defend Islamabad.