China has accelerated the production of JF-17 fighter jets for Pakistan. The JF-17 is the same aircraft that was used against the Indian Air Force (IAF) after the Balakot strikes and claimed to have shot-down an Indian MiG21 Bison.
According to earlier reported by the EurAsian Times citing Global Times – in the first half of 2020, the number of JF-17s delivered was the most in the past five years. As of June 30, the production line of the JF-17 has on average reduced the production period of a single aircraft by 15 days compared to last year, China Aviation News reported.
The latest, modified version of the JF-17, known as the JF-17 Block 3, made its maiden flight in December 2019, the Aerospace Knowledge magazine reported then. In March 2019, Yang Wei, chief designer of the fighter jet, said development and production of the JF-17 Block 3 was underway and the third block will see the JF-17’s information-based warfare capability and weapons upgraded.
According to an analysis by Jane’s, the new jet features a couple of additions over previous systems including a new wide-angle holographic head-up display and a new imaging infrared (IIR)-based missile approach warning system.
While JF-17 Block I and II variants are reportedly powered by Klimov RD-93MA turbofan engine, the Block III version of the JF-17 are slated to receive the RD-93MA or Chinese WS-13 engine.
According to Chinese experts – the latest version of the JF-17 jet features technologies from China’s stealth aircraft – J-20. The new features include a latest holographic wide-angle heads-up display and integrated cockpit display similar to the one used by the J-20, in addition to an advanced infrared missile approach warning system.
The new JF-17s could give pilots more situational awareness, permitting them to focus more on warfare instead of flying the plane. The jet is set to operationally deploy with the Pakistan Air Force in 2020 and all 50 planned JF-17 Block IIIs are expected to be inducted by 2024,” the Diplomat, quoted the PAF Chief of Air Staff, Mujahid Anwar Khan last year.
Meanwhile, India is finalizing plans to acquire indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft – LCA Tejas to boost its depleting Air Force. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will buy an additional 83 jets, apart from an earlier deal for 40 aircraft, CDS – General Bipin Rawat had stated.
“The Indian Air Force is switching that to the LCA,” Rawat said when asked about the global tender for jets. “The IAF is saying, I would rather take the indigenous fighter, it is good.”
New Delhi is taking a massive step towards ‘Make in India’ initiative by rejecting expensive foreign jets which have been stuck in bureaucratic delays and financial uncertainties. PM Modi had also emphasized to buy local to boost the ailing economy mauled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The induction of Tejas jets will help India rise as a key defence exporter due to its “relatively low price,” General Rawat had stated. The move to acquire indigenous fighter jets marks a momentous shift to start using domestic weaponry.
“The artillery guns, air defence systems and radars will all be indigenous systems as well. We are doing well with artillery guns and in air defence systems,” he added. “We are also looking at ammunition manufacturing in our country in a very big way.”
While the IAF is vehemently supporting the indigenous fighter program, there are various issues, including faster delivery schedules and quality issues that still haunt the IAF officials. As per plans, the 123 Tejas aircraft are to be followed by the Mark-II variant which are medium-weight fighters.
The test flight for the next generation Tejas jets is likely to be held 2022 and could come face to face against JF-17 jets, co-developed by China and Pakistan.