ISLAMABAD ($1=223.95 Pakistani Rupees) — The Pakistani fighter JF-17 is starting to impress more and more with new upgrades. This aircraft is a joint product between China and Pakistan. Its existence is in consequence a response to the needs of the Pakistan Air Force. Today, however, in addition to the 138 units in service in Pakistan, the air forces of Iraq, Myanmar, and Nigeria also fly it. There is even a real possibility that the JF-17 could end up as the strategic main combat aircraft of the Argentine Air Force.
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Currently Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, the manufacturers of the aircraft are working on its latest version – Block 3. Long-awaited, this fighter is supposed to significantly increase the combat capability of the Pakistan Air Force. There are several prototypes developed, with their first flights beginning in 2019 and 2020.
Photos recently posted online show the JF-17 Block 3 getting a “lethal upgrade”. Completely renewed pilot helmet with HMD display. The Chinese pilots of the J-20 stealth fighter use the same. This upgrade brings the JF-17 Block 3 closer to Generation 4++. Mostly because it is one of the requirements.
The new pilot helmet with an HMD display will reduce the strain on the pilot while piloting or performing a combat mission. The information drawn from the computer displays in the cockpit is now transferred to the HMD display on the helmet. Experts and former pilots who piloted with such helmets claim that stress is reduced in this way. Also, the pilot is much more focused on piloting during a combat mission.
The photo comes as a Pakistan Defense Ministry source told the Express Tribune that “the modernization of the aircraft is underway”. According to various sources, Block 3 has less weight than the first two variants of the aircraft. This has been achieved with the use of carbon fiber composite materials.
The world saw the first photos of the JF-17 Block 3 earlier this year. Then several planes were spotted that had just come off the assembly line. It is claimed, but this information has not been confirmed, that 11 or slightly more units of this version have been produced to date.
The JF-17C [or Block III] is to replace the Pakistan Air Force’s [PAF] aging fleet of Chengdu F-7s and Dassault Mirage-III/Vs. Pakistan has already placed a pre-order of 50 units. If the upgrades continue, however, Islamabad may increase the number.
A Chinese pilot quoted by the Express Tribune says that this version of the Pakistani fighter will be fully capable of not only fighting against heavier fighters but also defeating them.
Andreas Rupprecht, a military expert based in Germany gives quite an interesting assessment of Pakistani aircraft. According to him, the outdated JF-17s would be able to oppose the Indian Tejas, but the Indian aircraft has a much better chance. Mainly because the old JF-17s are behind in technology. But viewed through the JF-17C Block III upgrade, Rupprecht gives the Pakistani fighter a very big advantage. “If all goes well, the C model will be operational with better avionics, weapons, and AESA long before the first AESA-equipped Tejas reaches a front-line unit,” the expert analyzed in his commentary.
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