Iraq could replace its F-16 fighters with Pakistan’s JF-17s
BAGHDAD, ($1=1,462.13 Iraqi Dinars) – Iraqi and Middle Eastern media write that Iraq intends to buy 12 JF-17 Block III fighters from Pakistan for approximately $ 600 million, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
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An unnamed source quoted by the media claims that there is already a preliminary agreement between the two countries. The agreement was made during a visit by an Iraqi delegation to Pakistan. According to the source, next month [October – ed.] the two parties will officially announce a deal with the signing of a contract.
Iraq currently has 26 units of the US F-16 C / D fighter. There is an opinion that a possible replacement of the F-16 C / D with a JF-17 Block III is like replacing an iPhone 12 with an iPhone 4s. But the idea of Iraq acquiring non-US foreign fighters makes serious sense.
Iraqi F-16 C / D fighters do not have BVR missiles and stand-off ammunition. This makes their available fighters almost useless. This fact benefits Turkey to some extent, whose air force continues to violate Iraqi airspace.
On the other hand, the possible order of Pakistani fighter jets is a signal to Washington, which refuses to withdraw its troops from the Middle East, although the Iraqi parliament voted in December 2020 for all foreign troops on its territory to leave the country. Something that both former US President Donald Trump and current Joe Biden do not do, but conveniently avoids commenting on the topic.
There is a second reason why Iraq is looking for other fighters. The main issue with Iraq is Maintenance. Iraq has to pay a lot more for the maintenance of these aircraft as the airforce lacks skilled manpower who are trained. The Lockheed Martin staff is pulled out leaving Iraq with planes and none to maintain them.
If such a deal is reached, the question remains what Baghdad will do with Lockheed Martin’s 26 F-16 units available. The possibility of being sold is minimal, as they must obtain permission from the United States for such activity. Something Washington probably won’t allow.
The JF-17 Block 3 fighter, jointly developed between Pakistan and China, has become increasingly popular in recent months. Argentina has set aside nearly $ 664 million from its defense budget for the purchase of 12 units, but the agreement has not yet been officially signed.
Nigeria is another country that is interested in Pakistani fighters. $ 184 million is willing to pay the Nigerian government to acquire three fighters of this model to help the Nigerian army deal more successfully with the Boko Haram terrorist group.
What JF-17 fighter jet really is?
Generally, these types of Pakistani planes are light and single-engine, which is to some extent an advantage in managing and performing complex air maneuvers. Its capabilities are exactly the same as those of most fighter jets in the world – they intercept planes, strike air-to-ground and air-to-air.
This also answers the next question – what weapons are integrated into the fighter. The JF-17 has various ammunition, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, 23 mm twin-barrel autocannon and more.
Depending on the purpose, this type of aircraft can be equipped with two types of engines – one is the Chinese Guizhou WS-13, the other is the Russian Klimov RD-93, which also drives the famous MiG-29 fighter. Whichever is the choice of the two engines, they are capable of providing the JF-17 with a speed of up to 1.8 Mach.
According to information from the Pakistani Defense Ministry, the latest JF-17 Block 3 model has a better multifunction display, a built-in pilot helmet display, AESA radar integrated with the aircraft’s infrared target map, a new engine that will allow the JF-17 to reach a maximum speed of 2.0 Mach and more.
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