The governments of Pakistan and Myanmar are now in "advanced negotiations" to licence-build the JF-17, a single-engine multi-role fighter jet, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, an independent defence news agency, reported.

Citing defence industry sources in Yangon and sources close to the Myanmar Air Force (MAF), the defence news outlet said that if an agreement is reached, Myanmar would be able to significantly expand its local defence industry.

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

The JF-17 Thunder aircraft, jointly developed by China and Pakistan, can carry 8,000lbs of ordinance on seven external hardpoints, which is an adequate amount of ordinance for any mission profile. The JF-17 is powered by a Russian RD-93 afterburning turbofan, which has a top speed for Mach 1.6. It also enhances the much needed capability of the air force in beyond visual range (BVR) engagements.

As the MAF prepares to phase out its obsolete fleet of F-7M Airguard and A-5C Fantan combat aircraft that it purchased from China in the 1990s, licensed production of the JF-17 Thunder would possibly revamp MAF's defence power over the coming decades, a Jane's analyst says.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has at least 70 of the fighter jets currently in service, with the first ones having entered service in 2009. Expectations are that the PAF will induct up to 150 JF-17 Thunder fighters in the coming years.

The first of 16 imported JF-17s ordered by Myanmar are expected to go into service with the MAF later this year.

DawnNews reached out to the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistan Air Force. However, all three declined to comment.

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