Pakistani JF-17s poised to replace aging MiG-29s near Russian border

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Exciting updates are brewing between Azerbaijan and Pakistan as negotiations are underway for Azerbaijan to acquire an unspecified quantity of top-tier JF-17 Thunder Block-III fighter jets. These aircraft, enhanced with superior radar systems and cutting-edge weaponry, carry a staggering price tag of $1.6 billion. As reported by Air Operation Syndicate, sources in Islamabad suggest these new juggernauts in the sky will supersede Azerbaijan’s current Russian MiG-29 fighter jet arsenal. 

Photo by Stephan De Bruijn

These JF-17s aren’t just your regular fighter jets. Here’s where they really shine: their capabilities significantly outperform those of other regional aircraft, such as the MiG-29 and Su-25. Not only that, but these Pakistani machines also have the prowess to stand up to the S-300 air defense system

You might be thinking that this is a hefty contract. But it’s not just the jets that Pakistan is providing. The package also includes ammunition and, crucially, pilot training. This deal marks a historical high for Pakistan’s military-industrial complex. It’s their largest export deal to date.

Nearly 60 aircraft

With its capacity to carry an assortment of eight missiles, the JF-17C Block III takes its place as the latest model in its combat aircraft series. It comes equipped with advanced radars and high-tech electronic warfare systems. 

From the data we currently have, the going rate for this aircraft is roughly $25 million. A prospective deal, worth over $1.5 billion, aims to totally revamp Azerbaijan‘s entire military aircraft fleet. This would equate to the acquisition of about 60 of these JF-17C Block III crafts. 

Photo credit: Pakistan Air Force

Despite earlier reports from Azerbaijani media outlets about a potential sale agreement between Baku and Islamabad for the JF-17 aircraft, it’s crucial to remember that, as of now, there is no signed contract.

Azerbaijani MiG-29

As the standard bearer for the AzAF, the MiG-29 secures its rightful place in the skies. From September to October 2010, the Azerbaijani skies were further fortified with the addition of 24 Mi-35M aircraft purchased from Rostvertol. By the first quarter of 2012, eight of these had been received, with an additional four following in August 2012. With the introduction of the MiG-29s, the Air Force bid farewell to the MiG-25 aircraft once deployed from Nasosnaya Air Base. 

However, the MiG-29M should not be confused with its base model, as it brings a host of enhancements to the table. It sports a reworked airframe that enhances fuel capacity and aerodynamics, bolstered avionics, and compatibility with a broader range of weaponry — the MiG-29M is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Providing unprecedented control and maneuverability, this model is also equipped with a fly-by-wire control system. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Let’s delve deeper into what the MiG-29M offers. It reaches a maximum speed of Mach 2.25 [2,400 km/h], and a service ceiling of 17,500 m. The aircraft can ascend at a rate of 330 m/s and boasts a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.77. This specification allows for the performance of complex aerial maneuvers. But there’s more that sets the MiG-29M apart. Thanks to drop tanks, it has a ferry range of 2,100 km, which means it’s capable of covering greater distances without the need for refueling — giving it an upper hand in any combat scenario.

More MiG-29 and MiG-29M differences

Let’s discuss the formidable capabilities of the MiG-29M. This aircraft boasts a single 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 autocannon and an impressive total of 150 rounds. Additionally, it features six under-wing and under-fuselage pylons, which offer versatility in terms of weapon carriage. From air-to-air missiles to air-to-surface missiles, rockets, and even bombs, it can cover a broad range of combat situations. 

Moving on to the propulsion details, the MiG-29M relies on not one, but two Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines. These powerful engines produce 81.4 kN of thrust each, propelling the aircraft to achieve higher speeds and making skilled flight maneuvers seem effortless. 

To top it all off, the avionics systems in the MiG-29M represent a significant advancement from its base model. With a Zhuk-ME radar, it features an impressive detection range of 120 km for airborne targets and a remarkable 300 km range for naval targets. One standout feature is its helmet-mounted target designation system, which allows the pilot to aim at the enemy simply by targeting them visually.

Why JF-17 over MiG-29?

Emerging from a collaboration between the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex [PAC] and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation [CAC] of China, the JF-17 is a light, single-engine, versatile combat aircraft. 

When it comes to cost-effectiveness, the JF-17 clearly outshines the MiG-29M. This budget-friendly aircraft isn’t just cheaper to manufacture, but it also costs less to maintain and operate. This makes it an excellent choice for those keen on bolstering defense capabilities while on a budget. 

But where does the JF-17 truly excel? It stands unparalleled in its broad scope of capabilities. Unlike the MiG-29M, which is predominantly aimed towards air dominance, the JF-17 rolls off the production line ready for a multitude of roles – from dogfights and ground assault to even reconnaissance. 

Take a seat inside the JF-17 and you’ll quickly notice its state-of-the-art avionics package. It boasts a high-tech glass cockpit and incorporates hands-on-throttle-and-stick [HOTAS] controls. These features provide pilots with superior situational awareness and fluid command of the aircraft, far exceeding what the MiG-29M can offer. 

In terms of operational range, the JF-17 takes the lead. It can engage targets at longer distances without needing refueling, providing it with a substantial advantage in strategic maneuverability. 

Addressing its weapons compatibility, the JF-17 once again surpasses the MiG-29M. It is designed to support a diverse range of munitions, from air-to-air and air-to-surface, to anti-ship missiles and precision-guided bombs. This means you have a more versatile and adept fighting machine ready for a variety of combat scenarios.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The JF-17 market

Except Pakistan, as of latest research, the JF-17 fighter jet, a joint production of China and Pakistan, has been sold to Myanmar and Nigeria. Myanmar’s Air Force was the first foreign military to induct this aircraft, while Nigeria’s Air Force also confirmed its order for the JF-17.

Several other countries have shown interest in the JF-17 fighter jet. These include nations from different regions of the world, such as the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The list includes countries like Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.

Photo credit: PAF

However, it’s important to note that these are potential customers and no official confirmation has been made regarding the sale of the JF-17 to these countries. The rumors are based on various factors such as diplomatic relations, defense budgets, and military requirements of these countries.

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