ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is eyeing formal induction of the newly-launched JF-17B dual seat fighter jet by April 2017, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) announced on Wednesday.

Production of the first JF-17B was initiated by Pakistan and China during a joint ceremony at Chengdu Aerospace Corporation. The jet is set to make its maiden flight by the end of this year, the PAF said.

The dual seat aircraft will enhance training value and operational capability, Air Marshal Muhammad Iqbal said at the ceremony. He also thanked Chinese leadership for their continuous support in the design, development and manufacturing phases of the JF-17 development project.

Chinese leadership paid tribute to PAF authorities for operationalising the aircraft and expressed their resolve to continue support for development work of JF-17 project.

The JF-17 Thunder's operational history

The JF-17 Thunder, a single-engine multi-role fighter jet, and was jointly developed by China and Pakistan. Development on the aircraft started in 1999, and the maiden flight was conducted in 2003.

The initial Block 1 JF-17s were received in 2007, with production of the upgraded Block 2 JF-17s started in 2013. The upgraded models have upgraded avionics, air-to-air refuelling capability, data link, enhanced electronic warfare capability and enhanced load carrying ability.

The JF-17 can be equipped with air-to-air and air-to-ground ordinance. The aircraft mounts both short-range infra-red air to air missiles along with longer ranged radar-guided BVR missiles, an essential capability for a frontline interceptor.

Read: Pakistan's tool of war: PAF's rolling thunder

The aircraft can carry 8,000lbs of ordinance on seven external hardpoints, which is an adequate amount of ordinance for any mission profile. The JF-17 enhances the much needed capability of the air force in beyond visual range (BVR) engagements.

The JF-17 is a capable platform, and is on its way to form the backbone of the PAF. It was reported that between 250 and 300 aircraft will be inducted into the air force in order to phase out the ageing fleet of some other aircraft models that are still in operation.

For the Pakistan Air Force, the JF-17 fills the gap that had arisen due to an ageing inventory, which was further impacted by sanctions placed on the country following the nuclear tests in 1998.

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