ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has won the first order for its JF-17 Thunder jet fighters, an air force spokesman said Monday, a long-held goal for the nation which wants to boost its military exports.
The latest models of the jets, which are locally produced in cooperation with Pakistan's close ally China, are lightweight multi-role aircraft capable of Mach 2.0 (twice the speed of sound) with an operational ceiling of 55,000 feet.
Speaking to AFP from the Paris Air Show by phone, Air Commodore Syed Muhammad Ali said an order for the plane had been finalised but declined to give details.
“That's the case, we've finalised the order,” he said, citing sensitivities for not naming the client, the number of aircraft or the date of delivery.
A report on the aviation website Flightglobal.com quoted another senior officer, Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood, as saying the sale had been made to an “Asian country” and the delivery would take place in 2017.
The report added that 80 people were promoting the JF-17 in Paris this year, reflecting a significant marketing push.
Pakistan's large and well-funded military has long been a major importer of defence equipment, particularly from China.
But Pakistan is hoping the updated JF-17, along with Pakistani-made tanks and surveillance drones, will help increase military exports and bring in much-needed foreign exchange.
Analysts believe the major selling point of the JF-17 is its cost, which is likely to be substantially less than the $16-18 million cost of an US-made F-16.
The Paris Air show runs from June 15 to 21, with the final three days open to the public.