The JF-17 Block-II — the upgrade version of the JF-17 Thunder or Xiaolong fighter jet co-designed by China and Pakistan — is likely to be a very popular combat aircraft among developing nations, according to the Diplomat, an online current affairs magazine based in Tokyo.
Quoting reports from the Washington-based online portals Defense News and Defense Talk, the Diplomat stated that Pakistan has recently launched production of the JF-17 Block-II at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex near Islamabad. The country expects to begin exporting the aircraft next year, the report said, adding the newer JF-17 Block-II variants possesses more advanced weapons systems and avionics.
"We've been getting inquiries and expressions of interest for the JF-17 Thunder from many countries in the Middle East, Africa and from as far as South America," said Air Marshal Sohail Gul Khan of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.
A report published in 2010 indicated that the potential buyers of JF-17 includes Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has already produced 50 older and less-advanced JF-17 Block-1 fighters for the nation's air force. This low-cost multirole single engine fighter was originally co-designed by China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. In China, the aircraft is called the FC-1 Xiaolong or Fierce Dragon.
Earlier last week, Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, visited the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex to officially inaugurate the beginning of the Block-II production. The event was also attended by Chinese delegates and the Pakistan air force, the Diplomat said.