CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder
|JF-17 Thunder |
|A JF-17 of the Pakistan Air Force|
|Role||Multirole combat aircraft|
|National origin||China / Pakistan|
|Manufacturer||Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group /|
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
|First flight||25 August 2003|
|Introduction||12 March 2007|
|Primary users||Pakistan Air Force|
Myanmar Air Force
Nigerian Air Force
|Produced||In China: June 2007 – present|
In Pakistan: January 2008 – present
|Program cost||US$500 million|
The PAC JF-17 Thunder (Urdu: جے ایف-١٧ گرج), or CAC FC-1 Xiaolong (pinyin: Xiāo Lóng; literally: 'Fierce Dragon'), is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. Its designation "JF-17" by Pakistan is short for "Joint Fighter-17", while the designation and name "FC-1 Xiaolong" by China means "Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon".
The JF-17 can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel autocannon. Powered by a Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan, it has a top speed of Mach 1.8. The JF-17 is to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), complementing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the cost. The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010. In 2015 Pakistan produced 16 JF-17s. As of 2016[update], Pakistan is believed to have the capacity to produce 25 JF-17 per year. 58% of the airframe is Pakistani and 42% Chinese/Russian-origin. As of December 2016[update] Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has manufactured 70 jets in the country for use by the Pakistan Air Force of the Block 1 type, and 33 jets of the Block 2 type.
The Pakistan Air Force plans, by 2017, to induct a twin-seater version known as the JF-17B for both enhanced operational capability and training. Preparations for a more advanced and technologically sophisticated block III version of the aircraft are underway and the AESA radar, KJ-7A, has been developed, which can track 15 targets and engage 4 targets simultaneously.
Since its induction in 2011, the JF-17 Thunder has accumulated 19,000 hours of operational flight. The JF-17 has seen active military service as it is used by the Pakistan Air Force to bomb militant positions in North Waziristan, using both unguided munitions and guided missiles for precision strike capability.
- 1 Development
- 2 Design
- 3 Operational history
- 4 Variants
- 5 Operators
- 6 Specifications (Block 2)
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The JF-17 was primarily developed to meet the Pakistan Air Force requirement for an affordable, modern, multi-role combat aircraft as a replacement for its large fleet of Dassault Mirage III/5 fighters, Nanchang A-5 bombers, and Chengdu F-7 interceptors, with a cost of US$500 million, divided equally between China and Pakistan. The aircraft was also intended to have export potential as a cost-effective and competitive alternative to more expensive Western fighters. The development of this aircraft was headed by Yang Wei, who is considered China's "ace designer". Yang also designed the Chengdu J-20.
By 1989, because of economic sanctions by the US, Pakistan had abandoned Project Sabre II, a design study involving US aircraft manufacturer Grumman and China, and had decided to redesign and upgrade the Chengdu F-7. In the same year, China and Grumman started a new design study to develop the Super 7, another redesigned Chengdu F-7. Grumman left the project when sanctions were placed on China following the political fallout from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. After Grumman left the Chengdu Super 7 project, the Fighter China project was launched in 1991. In 1995, Pakistan and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for joint design and development of a new fighter, and over the next few years worked out the project details. In June 1995, Mikoyan had joined the project to provide "design support", this also involved the secondment of several engineers by CAC.
Launch of FC-1 project
In October 1995, Pakistan was reportedly to select a Western company by the end of the year to provide and integrate the FC-1's avionics, which was expected to go into production by 1999. The avionics were said to include radar, Inertial navigation system, Head-up display, and Multi-function displays. Competing bids came from Thomson-CSF with a variant of the Radar Doppler Multitarget (RDY), SAGEM with a similar avionics package to those used in the ROSE upgrade project, and Marconi Electronic Systems with its Blue Hawk radar. FIAR's (now SELEX Galileo) Grifo S7 radar was expected to be selected due to the company's ties with the PAF. In February 1998, Pakistan and China signed a letter of intent covering airframe development. Russia's Klimov offered a variant of the RD-33 turbofan engine to power the fighter. In April 1999, South Africa's Denel offered to arm the Super 7 with the T-darter beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM), rather than the previously reported R-Darter. Previously in 1987, Pratt & Whitney offered the Super-7 project three engine options; PW1212, F404, and PW1216, with local manufacturing in either China or Pakistan. Rolls Royce offered its RB199-127/128 turbofan engine; this plan was scrapped in 1989.
In June 1999, the contract to jointly develop and produce the Chengdu FC-1/Super 7 was signed. After GEC-Marconi had abandoned the bidding to supply an integrated avionics suite, FIAR and Thomson-CSF proposed a number of avionics suites based on the Grifo S7 and RC400 radars respectively, despite previously hoping to use the PAF's Super 7 to launch its new Blue Hawk radar. Because of sanctions placed on Pakistan after the country's 1998 nuclear weapons tests, design work progressed very slowly over the next 18 months, preventing delivery of the Western avionics to the PAF. In early 2001, the PAF decided to decouple the airframe from the avionics, enabling design work on the aircraft to continue. As the airframe was developed, any new avionics requirements by the PAF could be more easily integrated into the air frame.
Prototype production began in September 2002; a full-size mock-up of the FC-1/Super 7 was displayed at Airshow China in November 2002. The first batch of Klimov RD-93 turbofan engines that would power the prototypes was also delivered in 2002. According to a China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) official, the JF-17's low cost is due to some of the on-board systems having been adapted from those of the Chengdu J-10. The official said, "This transfer of technology—transposing the aircraft systems from the J-10 to the JF-17—is what makes the JF-17 so cost-effective". The use of computer-aided design software shortened the design phase of the JF-17.
Flight testing and redesigning
The first prototype, PT-01, was rolled out on 31 May 2003 and transferred to the Chengdu Flight Test Centre to be prepared for its maiden flight. This was initially planned to take place in June, but was delayed due to concerns about the SARS outbreak. The designation Super-7 was replaced by "JF-17" (Joint Fighter-17) around this point. Low speed taxiing trials began at Wenjiang Airport, Chengdu, on 27 June 2003. The maiden flight was made in late August 2003; an official maiden flight of the prototype took place in early September. The prototype was marked with the new PAF designation JF-17. By March 2004, CAC had made around 20 test flights of the first prototype. On 7 April 2004, PAF test pilots Rashid Habib and Mohammad Ehsan ul-Haq flew PT-01 for the first time. The maiden flight of the third prototype, PT-03, took place on 9 April 2004. In March 2004, Pakistan was planning to induct around 200 aircraft.
Following the third prototype, several design improvements were developed and incorporated into further aircraft. Because of excessive smoke emissions by the RD-93 engine, the air intakes were widened. Reported control problems found in testing resulted in alterations to the wing leading edge root extensions (LERX). The vertical tail fin was enlarged to house an expanded electronic warfare equipment bay in the tip. The redesigned aircraft had a slightly increased maximum take-off weight and incorporated an increased quantity of Chinese-sourced avionics; however PAF had selected Western avionics for their aircraft, postponing PAF deliveries from late 2005 until 2007. Pakistan evaluated British, French, and Italian avionics suites, the winner of which was expected to be finalised in 2006. PT-04, the fourth prototype and the first to incorporate the design changes, was rolled out in April 2006 and made its first flight on 28 April 2006.
The modified air intakes replaced conventional intake ramps—whose function is to divert turbulent boundary layer airflow away from the inlet and prevent it entering the engine—with a diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) design. The DSI uses a combination of forward-swept inlet cowls and a three-dimensional compression surface to divert the boundary layer airflow at high sub-sonic and supersonic speeds. According to Lockheed Martin, the DSI design prevents most of the boundary layer air from entering the engine at speeds up to two times the speed of sound, reduces weight by removing the need for complex mechanical intake mechanisms, and is stealthier than a conventional intake. In 1999, developmental work on the DSI with the aim of improving aircraft performance commenced. The JF-17 design was finalised in 2001. Multiple models underwent wind tunnel tests; it was found that the DSI reduced weight, cost, and complexity while improving performance.
For the avionics and weapons qualification phase of the flight testing, PT-04 was fitted with a fourth-generation avionics suite that incorporates sensor fusion, an electronic warfare suite, enhanced man-machine interface, Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC) for the RD-93 turbofan engine, FBW flight controls, day/night precision surface attack capability, and multi-mode, pulse-Doppler radar for BVR air-to-air attack capability. The sixth prototype, PT-06, made its maiden flight on 10 September 2006. Following a competition in 2008, Martin-Baker was selected over a Chinese firm for the supply of fifty PK16LE ejection seats.
On 2 March 2007, the first consignment of two small-batch-production (SBP) aircraft arrived in a dismantled state in Pakistan. They flew for the first time on 10 March 2007 and took part in a public aerial demonstration during a Pakistan Day parade on 23 March 2007. The PAF intended to induct 200 JF-17 by 2015 to replace all its Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5, and Dassault Mirage III/5 aircraft. In preparation for the in-flight refuelling of JF-17s, the PAF has upgraded several Mirage IIIs with IFR probes for training purposes. A dual-seat, combat-capable trainer was originally scheduled to begin flight testing in 2006; in 2009 Pakistan reportedly decided to develop the training model into a specialised attack variant.
In November 2007, the PAF and PAC conducted flight evaluations of aircraft fitted with a variant of the NRIET KLJ-10 radar developed by China's Nanjing Research Institute for Electronic Technology (NRIET), and the LETRI SD-10 active radar homing AAM. In 2005, PAC began manufacturing JF-17 components; production of sub-assemblies commenced on 22 January 2008. The PAF was to receive a further six pre-production aircraft in 2005, for a total of 8 out of an initial production run of 16 aircraft. Initial operating capability was to be achieved by the end of 2008. Final assembly of the JF-17 in Pakistan began on 30 June 2009; PAC expected to complete production of four to six aircraft that year. They planned to produce twelve aircraft in 2010 and fifteen to sixteen aircraft per year from 2011; this could increase to twenty-five aircraft per year. On 29 December 2015, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) announced the rollout of the 16th JF-17 Thunder fighter manufactured in the calendar year 2015, taking total number of manufactured aircraft to more than 66. Later, a PAF spokesperson said that in light of the interest shown by various countries, it has been decided that production capacity of JF-17 Thunder at PAC Kamra will be expanded.
Russia signed an agreement in August 2007 for re-export of 150 RD-93 engines from China to Pakistan for the JF-17. In 2008, the PAF reported it was not fully satisfied with the RD-93 engine and that it would only power the first 50 aircraft; it was alleged that arrangements for a new engine, reportedly the Snecma M53-P2, may have been made. Mikhail Pogosyan, head of the MiG and Sukhoi design bureaus, recommended the Russian defence export agency Rosoboronexport block RD-93 engine sales to China to prevent export competition from the JF-17 against the MiG-29. At the 2010 Farnborough Airshow, the JF-17 was displayed internationally for the first time; aerial displays at the show were intended but were cancelled due to a late attendance decision as well as license and insurance costs. According to a Rosoboronexport official at the Airshow China 2010, held on 16–21 November 2005 in Zhuhai, China, Russia and China had signed a contract worth $238 million for 100 RD-93 engines with options for another 400 engines developed for the FC-1.
According to media reports, Pakistan planned to increase production of JF-17s by 25% in 2016.
Pakistan negotiated with British and Italian defence firms regarding avionics and radars for the JF-17 development. Radar options include the Italian Galileo Avionica's Grifo S7, the French Thomson-CSF's RC400 (a variant of the RDY-2), and the British company SELEX Galileo's Vixen 500E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. In 2010, the PAF had reportedly selected ATE Aerospace Group to integrate French-built avionics and weapons systems over rival bids from Astrac, Finmeccanica and a Thales-Sagem joint venture. Fifty JF-17s were to be upgraded and an optional fifty from 2013 onwards, at a cost of up to US$1.36 billion. The RC-400 radar, MICA AAMs, and several air-to-surface weapons are believed to be in the contract. The PAF also held talks with South Africa for the supply of Denel A-darter AAMs.
In April 2010, after eighteen months of negotiations, the deal was reportedly suspended; reports cited French concerns about Pakistan's financial situation, the protection of sensitive French technology, and lobbying by the Indian government, which operates many French-built aircraft. France wanted the PAF to purchase several Mirage 2000-9 fighters from the United Arab Emirates Air Force, which would overlap with the upgraded JF-17. In July 2010, the PAF's Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, said these reports were false. He said, "I have had discussions with French Government officials who have assured me that this is not the position of their government". Suleman also speculated that "someone was trying to cause mischief—to put pressure on France not to supply the avionics we want".
On 18 December 2013, production of Block 2 JF-17s began at PAC's Kamra facility. These aircraft have air-to-air refuelling capability, improved avionics, enhanced load carrying capacity, data link, and electronic warfare capabilities. Block 2 construction activity is planned to run until 2016, after which the manufacturing of further developed Block 3 aircraft is planned. In December 2015, it was announced that the 16th Block II aircraft had been handed over resulting in standing up of the 4th squadron.
Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium has said that Block 3 aircraft might include AESA radar, HMD, avionics improvements, and perhaps some reworking of the airframe. Local media has indicated that a 2-seat version will also be part of Block III package. Unconfirmed reports says that Block III will also have better flight management system/software. On 17 June 2015, Jane's Defence Weekly confirmed this that Block 3 will have an AESA radar and will also include a helmet-mounted display (HMD) and possibly an internal infrared search and tracking (IRST) system.
Selex ES next-generation cockpit includes a new mission computer, an enhanced head-up display and contemporary multi-function displays, plus the capability for the pilot to instead use a single, large-area display. Selex is positioning the cockpit as a possible upgrade of JF-17 Block III.
Airframe and cockpit
The air frame is of semi-monocoque structure constructed primarily of aluminum alloys. High strength steel and titanium alloys are partially adopted in some critical areas. The air frame is designed for a service life of 4,000 flight hours or 25 years, the first overhaul being due at 1,200 flight hours. Block 2 JF-17s incorporate greater use of composite materials in the air frame to reduce weight. The retractable undercarriage has a tricycle arrangement with a single steerable nose-wheel and two main undercarriages. The hydraulic brakes have an automatic anti-skid system. The position and shape of the inlets is designed to give the required airflow to the jet engine during maneuvers involving high angles of attack.
The mid-mounted wings are of cropped-delta configuration. Near the wing root are the LERX, which generate a vortex that provides extra lift to the wing at high angles of attack encountered during combat maneuvers. A conventional tri-plane empennage arrangement is incorporated, with all-moving stabilators, single vertical stabiliser, rudder, and twin ventral fins. The flight control system (FCS) comprises conventional controls with stability augmentation in the yaw and roll axis and a digital fly-by-wire (FBW) system in the pitch axis. The leading edge slats/flaps and trailing edge flaps are automatically adjusted during manoeuvring to increase turning performance. The FCS of serial production aircraft reportedly have a digital quadruplex (quad-redundant) FBW system in the pitch axis and a duplex (dual-redundant) FBW system in the roll and yaw axis.
The glass cockpit is covered by a transparent, acrylic canopy that provides the pilot with a good, all-round field of view. It has three large Multifunction Colour Displays (MFD) and smart Heads-Up Display (HUD) with built-in symbol generation capability. A centre stick is used for pitch and roll control while rudder pedals control yaw. A throttle is located to the left of the pilot. The cockpit incorporates hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls. The pilot sits on a Martin-Baker Mk-16LE zero-zero ejection seat. The cockpit incorporates an electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) and a wide-angle, holographic head-up display (HUD), which has a minimum total field of view of 25 degrees. The EFIS comprises three colour multi-function displays, providing basic flight information, tactical information, and information on the engine, fuel, electrical, hydraulics, flight control, and environment control systems. The HUD and MFD can be configured to show any available information. Each MFD is 20.3 cm (8.0 in) wide and 30.5 cm (12.0 in) tall and is arranged side-by-side in portrait orientation. The central MFD is placed lowest to accommodate a control panel between it and the HUD.
Up to 3,629 kg (8,001 lb) of ordnance, equipment, and fuel can be mounted under the hard points, two of which are on the wing-tips, four are under the wings and one is under the fuselage.
The avionics software incorporates the concept of open architecture. Instead of the military-optimised Ada programming language, the software is written using the popular C++ programming language, enabling the use of the numerous civilian programmers available. The aircraft also includes a health and usage monitoring system, and automatic test equipment.
The JF-17 has a defensive aids system (DAS) composed of various integrated sub-systems. A radar warning receiver (RWR) provides data such as direction and proximity of enemy radars, and an electronic warfare (EW) suite housed in a fairing at the tip of the tail fin interferes with enemy radars. The EW suite is also linked to a Missile Approach Warning (MAW) system to defend against radar-guided missiles. The MAW system uses several optical sensors across the airframe to detect the rocket motors of missiles across a 360-degree coverage. Data from the MAW system, such as direction of inbound missiles and the time to impact, is shown on cockpit displays and the HUD. A countermeasures dispensing system releases decoy flares and chaff to help evade hostile radar and missiles. The DAS systems will also be enhanced by integration of a self-protection radar-jamming pod that will be carried externally on a hardpoint.
The first forty-two PAF production aircraft are equipped with the NRIET KLJ-7 radar, a variant of the KLJ-10 radar developed by China's Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology (NRIET) and also used on the Chengdu J-10. Multiple modes can manage the surveillance and engagement of up to forty air, ground, and sea targets; the track-while-scan mode can track up to ten targets at BVR and can engage two simultaneously with radar-homing AAMs. The operation range for targets with a radar cross-section (RCS) of 5 m2 (54 sq ft) is stated to be ≥ 105 km (65 mi) in look-up mode and ≥ 85 km (53 mi) in look-down mode. A forward looking infrared (FLIR) pod for low-level navigation and infra-red search and track (IRST) system for passive targeting can also be integrated; the JF-17 Block 2 is believed to incorporate an IRST.
A helmet-mounted sight (HMS) developed by Luoyang Electro-Optics Technology Development Centre of AVIC was developed in parallel with the JF-17; it was first tested on Prototype 04 in 2006. It was dubbed as EO HMS, (Electro-Optical Helmet Mounted Sight) and was first revealed to the public in 2008 at the 7th Zhuhai Airshow, where a partial mock-up was on display. The HMS tracks the pilot's head and eye movements to guide missiles towards the pilot's visual target. An externally carried day/night laser designator targeting pod may be integrated with the avionics to guide laser-guided bombs (LGBs). An extra hardpoint may be added under the starboard air intake, opposite the cannon, for such pods. To reduce the numbers of targeting pods required, the aircraft's tactical data link can transmit target data to other aircraft not equipped with targeting pods. The communication systems comprise two VHF/UHF radios; the VHF radio has the capacity for data linking for communication with ground control centers, airborne early warning and control aircraft and combat aircraft with compatible data links for network-centric warfare, and improved situation awareness.
In April 2016, Air Marshal Muhammad Ashfaque Arain said that, "JF-17 needs a targeting pod, as the jets' usefulness in current operations was limited due to lack of precision targeting. To fulfill this gap the Air Force was interested in buying the Thales-made Damocles, a third-generation targeting pod; which was a priority." In 2017, Aselsan's ASELPOD was tested and successfully integrated with the JF-17 and Pakistan has subsequently purchased at least eight targeting pods from Aselsan. This integration has significantly enhanced the JF-17 platform's ability to launch precision strikes.
Propulsion and fuel system
The first two blocks of JF-17 is powered by a single Russian RD-93 turbofan engine, which is a variant of the Klimov RD-33 engine used on the MiG-29 fighter. The engine gives more thrust and significantly lower specific fuel consumption than turbojet engines fitted to older combat aircraft being replaced by the JF-17. The advantages of using a single engine are a reduction in maintenance time and cost when compared to twin-engined fighters. A thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.99 can be achieved with full internal fuel tanks and no external payload. The engine's air supply is provided by two bifurcated air inlets (see airframe section).
The RD-93 is known to produce smoke trails. The Guizhou Aero Engine Group has been developing a new turbofan engine, the WS-13 Taishan, since 2000 to replace the RD-93. It is based on the RD-33 and incorporates new technologies to boost performance and reliability. A thrust output of 80 to 86.36 kN (17,980 to 19,410 lbf), a lifespan of 2,200 hours, and a thrust-to-weight ratio of 8.7 are expected. An improved version of the WS-13, developing a thrust of around 100 kN (22,000 lbf) (22,450 lb), is also reportedly under development. During the 2015 Paris Air Show, it was announced that flight testing of a JF-17 equipped with the WS-13 engine had begun. In 2015, a representative of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex said that Pakistan would continue to use the RD-93 engine on their fighters. Local media reports in January 2016 said that Russia was planning to sell engines for JF-17 directly to Pakistan. According to a PAC representative, Pakistan is looking to collaborate with Russia in developing and repairing engines.
The fuel system comprises internal fuel tanks located in the wings and fuselage with a capacity of 2,330 kg (5,140 lb); they are refuelled through a single point pressure refuelling system (see turbine fuel systems). Internal fuel storage can be supplemented by external fuel tanks. One 800-litre (180 imp gal) drop tank can be mounted on the aircraft's centerline hard point under the fuselage and two 800-litre or 1,110-litre (240 imp gal) drop tanks can be mounted on the two inboard under-wing hardpoints. The fuel system is compatible with in-flight refueling (IFR), allowing tanker aircraft to refuel inflight, and increasing its range and loitering time significantly. All production aircraft for the PAF are to be fitted with IFR probes. In June 2013, PAF Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt said ground tests on the JF-17's refueling probes had been successfully completed and the first mid-air refuelling operations would commence that summer.
The JF-17 can be armed with up to 3,629 kg (8,001 lb) of air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, and other equipment mounted externally on the aircraft's seven hardpoints. One hardpoint is located under the fuselage between the main landing gear, two are underneath each wing, and one is at each wing-tip. All seven hardpoints communicate via a MIL-STD-1760 data-bus architecture with the Stores Management System, which is stated to be capable of integration with weaponry of any origin. Internal armament comprises one 23 mm (0.91 in) GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon mounted under the port side air intake, which can be replaced with a 30 mm (1.2 in) GSh-30-2 twin-barrel cannon.
The wing-tip hard-points are typically occupied by short range infra-red homing AAMs. Many combinations of ordnance and equipment such as targeting pods can be carried on the under-wing and under-fuselage hard-points. Underwing hard-points can be fitted with multiple ejector racks, allowing each hard-point to carry two 500 lb (230 kg) unguided bombs or LGBs—Mk.82 or GBU-12. It is unknown whether multiple ejector racks can be used for ordnance such as beyond visual range (BVR) AAMs. Active radar homing BVR AAMs can be integrated with the radar and data-link for mid-course updates. The Chinese PL-12/SD-10 is expected to be the aircraft's primary BVR air-to-air weapon, although this may change if radars of other origin are fitted. Short range, infra-red homing missiles include the Chinese PL-5E and PL-9C, and the AIM-9L. The PAF is also seeking to arm the JF-17 with a fifth generation close-combat missile such as the PL10E IRIS-T or A-Darter. These will be integrated with the HMS/D and the radar for targeting.
Unguided air-to-ground weaponry includes rocket pods, gravity bombs and Matra Durandal anti-runway munitions. Precision-guided munitions such as LGBs and satellite-guided bombs are also compatible with the JF-17, as are other guided weapons such as anti-ship missiles and anti-radiation missiles. Pakistan planned to bring the Brazilian MAR-1 anti-radiation missile into service on its JF-17 fleet in 2014.
Small batch production of the single-seat, single-engine JF-17s began in China in June 2006. The first two small-batch-produced aircraft were delivered on 2 March 2007 and first flew in Pakistan on 10 March. They took part in an aerial display on 23 March 2007 as part of the Pakistan Day Joint Services Parade in Islamabad. Another six small-batch-produced aircraft were delivered by March 2008. These were extensively flight-tested and evaluated by the PAF. Two serial production aircraft were delivered from China in 2009 and the first Pakistani-manufactured aircraft was delivered to the PAF in a ceremony on 23 November 2009.
On 18 February 2010, the first JF-17 squadron, No. 26 Black Spiders, was officially inducted into the PAF with an initial strength of 14 fighter planes. These aircraft first saw service in the anti-terrorist operation in South Waziristan, during which various types of weapons were evaluated. They took part in the PAF's High Mark 2010 exercise from 29 April, where they were used by the Blue Force to attack Red Land surface targets with precision air-to-surface weapons. A re-equipment ceremony for No. 26 Black Spiders Squadron took place on 11 April 2011, during which it was stated that the JF-17 had "revolutionized the PAF's operational concepts". The then Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said: "Today as we re-equip No 26 squadron, we have also raised No. 16 Squadron with the JF-17 Thunder aircraft. I would like to mention and appreciate the contribution and support of the Chinese in helping us acquire a technological breakthrough in the shape of this aircraft." According to Pakistani forums, No 27 Squadron "Zarrars" replaced its Mirage 5EF with JF-17 in 2013. No 2 Squadron currently tasked with sea strikes reequipped with JF-17s in Sept 2015 replacing the F7s. No 16 Squadron "Black Panthers" has also been equipped with the JF-17. The next squadron is supposed to be No 7 Squadron. On 14 November 2011, at Kamra air base, one PAF JF-17 crashed, killing the pilot. On 27 September 2016, one PAF JF-17 crashed into the Arabian sea, the pilot ejecting safely. On 19 June 2017, it was reported that a JF-17 shot down an Iranian UAV operating in Pakistan's Pangjur District.
On 27 February 2019, during the tense standoff between India and Pakistan, Pakistan claimed that its JF-17s had shot down two Indian aircraft: a Mig-21 and a Su-30MKI, operating in Pakistan's airspace over the disputed region of Kashmir. India, on the other hand, claimed to have shot down a Pakistani F-16, while losing a MiG-21 in the aerial engagement. India denied the loss of any Su-30MKI and stated that all aircraft returned safely, whereas Pakistan denied the use or loss of any F-16 during the stand-off.
In December 2014, during the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar in Karachi, Nigeria was reportedly buying between 25 and 40 JF-17s from Pakistan. Nigerian Air Force chief Air Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu had visited Pakistan earlier in October 2014. Nigeria became the second customer in 2016 by placing an order for 3 planes. However, as the news reports value the deal at US$25 million, it is not clear if the item is misreported. June 2016 article in Jane's re-affirmed NAF budget for 3 JF-17, 10 Super Mushshak, and 2 Mi-35M aircraft in 2016. According to Indian media, a deal to buy JF-17s might be signed in November with a MoU already signed.
The Nigerian Air Force has confirmed it is expecting delivery of JF-17 for use in military operations against Jihadi militants in Northern Nigeria.
In October 2018 Pakistan approved of the sale and local Nigerian production of three JF-17s for US$184.3 million. The aircraft are rumored to be of a later version than the initially agreed sale, providing more advanced systems.
On 17 December 2018 Jane's disclosed that Myanmar Air Force has received the first of up to 16 JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft it ordered in 2015.  An official Air Force video released on Air Force day showcased JF-17s on static display and in air.
The Azerbaijani Air Forces has negotiated with China for several dozen JF-17s worth approximately US$16 to 18 million each. The Sudanese Air Force was reportedly negotiating to buy twelve aircraft. The Air Force of Zimbabwe reportedly had plans to purchase twelve JF-17s in 2004, as part of a $240 million deal with China. But none of these aircraft sales have materialized. In 2010, China was reportedly in talks about the JF-17 with five or six countries, some of which had sent pilots to China to undergo test flights.
Argentine officials at the 2013 Paris Air Show said they had discussed JF-17 co-production with Chinese officials, calling it the first formal effort potentially leading to the co-production of a modern Chinese fighter in Latin America. Fábrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) officials said the co-produced FC-1 could be called the "Pulqui-III", recalling FAdeA's Pulqui-II, Latin America's first swept wing jet fighter. On 15 February 2015, after a three-day visit to Beijing by Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina completed negotiations to purchase twenty FC-1s from Chengdu Aircraft Corporation. In January 2014, the Royal Saudi Air Force was reportedly examining potential technology transfer and co-production opportunities for the JF-17. Saudi Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan toured the JF-17 project during a visit to Pakistan.
In June 2015, Pakistani media reports suggested that export orders have also been confirmed and signed with the Sri Lanka Air Force, according to Pakistan-based 92 News while some other sources claim that Myanmar is the first buyer of Pakistani JF-17 Thunder jets. The article goes on to say that deliveries are likely to begin in 2017. According to the report, the order will be for around 18–24 aircraft, potentially confirming claims made at the 51st Paris Air Show that the first contract for the sale of the JF-17 had been signed with the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Although there are reports that Sri Lanka signed an agreement to buy eight JF-17 Thunders from Pakistan during a state visit by Nawaz Sharif in January 2016, but Sri Lankan government denies that any such deal happened. The deal was cancelled after Indian pressure. The deal would have been for 10–12 planes, valuing each plane at US$35 million for a total of US$400 million
Moroccan media has revealed that the country is interested in buying JF-17 and has invited the sales team to showcase the aircraft in the Marrakech Air Show 2016 According to a local analyst, the deal might be difficult to come to fruition, as the JF-17 Block I and Block II do not match the on-board electronics suites and air-to-air/air-to-surface munitions inventories of Morocco's current western avionics equipped Mirage F-1 (MF2000), F-5E/F Tiger II and Alpha Jets
Two air frame configurations were tested during the prototype stage. The first configuration was tested on the first three prototype aircraft; PT-01, PT-02, and PT-03. The next three prototypes PT-04, PT-05, and PT-06 were of the second configuration, incorporating modifications such as DSI, wider LERX, extended ventral fins, and a taller, less swept vertical stabilizer with a rectangular fairing at the tip containing electronic warfare equipment and small blister fairings at the base containing Missile Approach Warning sensors. The PT-04 prototype was primarily used for avionics and weapon qualification tests. Prototype-01 first flew in August 2003; Prototype-03 followed in April 2004. On 10 May 2006, Prototype 04 made its maiden flight.
In 2007, a dual-seat version for training and strike roles was proposed and due to the customer interests the development started in 2015. According to the PAF, the JF-17B dual seat fighter jet is currently entering the testing phase.
- JF-17 Block 1—Production in China began in June 2006. The first three Chinese weapons to be integrated are the PL-5E II AAM, the SD-10 AAM, and the C-802A anti-shipping missile. Block 1 aircraft had performed "better than expected" according to PAF Air Commodore Junaid. Production of Block 1 was completed on 18 December when the fiftieth aircraft—58% of which was produced in Pakistan—was delivered. A Block 1 JF-17 had cost approximately US$15 million per unit.
- JF-17 Block 2—Production began on 18 December 2013 and initial testing began on 9 February 2015. These aircraft have air-to-air refuelling capability, improved avionics, enhanced load carrying capacity, data link, and electronic warfare capabilities. The construction will continue until 2016, after which the manufacture of Block 3 is planned. A Block 2 JF-17 costs approximately US$25 million per unit. Chairman of PAC, Air Marshal Javaid Ahmed said: "We will hand over 16 Block-II JF-17s to the PAF every year", and that the manufacturing plant has the capacity to produce 25 units in a year. According to local media, PAC rolled out the 16th Block 2 aircraft in December 2015 enabling the JF-17's 4th squadron formation. The JF-17B two seat version would start testing in September 2016.
- JF-17 Block 3—Projected to feature further avionics advancements such as helmet-mounted display and sight (HMD/S) system, a new single panel multi-functional display (MFD), an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar paired with an infrared search and track (IRST) system, and a cockpit with a flight-control stick on the side an NRIET KLJ-7A AESA radar, more use of composites, a new engine, and a two-seater cockpit option, with a top speed of 2.0+ Mach. Pakistani Air Force officials have described it as a "fourth generation plus" fighter jet. According to unconfirmed media reports the induction is expected to start around 2019. As of September 2016[update], the design of the JF-17 Block III has been finalized. The PAF is expected to place an order for 50 JF-17 Block-III fighter jets in the first half of 2017.
- JF-17B—A twin-seater variant scheduled to be inducted into the Pakistan Air Force by 2017, its multi-roles include use for training and enhanced surveillance and support capabilities. The production of the first JF-17B was initiated by Pakistan and China in 2016. On 28 April 2017, the JF-17B took its maiden test flight in Chengdu.
- Myanmar Air Force: designated JF-17M, 16 on order. 4 aircraft were spotted at a military event on 15 December 2018, and six total are delivered as of 2018.
- Pakistan Air Force: 100+ units in service 
- PAF Base Minhas
- JF-17 TEF (Test and Evaluation Flight) (2007–2010)
- PAF Base Peshawar
- PAF Base Masroor
- No. 2 Squadron Minhas (2015)
- PAF Base Mushaf
- Combat Commanders School (2015)
- PAF Base Minhas (2017)
- No. 14 Squadron Tail Choppers
- PAF Base Samungli (2018)
- No. 28 Squadron Phoenix
- PAF Base Minhas
Specifications (Block 2)
|The glass cockpit of a JF-17 simulator|
Data from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex marketing brochure
- Crew: 1
- Length: 14.93 m (49 ft 0 in)
- Wingspan: 9.48 m (31 ft 1 in)
- Height: 4.72 m (15 ft 6 in)
- Wing area: 24.43 m2 (263.0 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 6,586 kg (14,520 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 12,383 kg (27,300 lb) 
- Fuel capacity: 2,329 kg (5,135 lb) internal fuel
- Powerplant: 1 × Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan with DEEC, 49.4 kN (11,100 lbf) thrust  dry, 85.3 kN (19,200 lbf) with afterburner
- Maximum speed: Mach 1.6
- Service ceiling: 16,916 m (55,499 ft)
- g limits: +8 -3
- Thrust/weight: 0.95
- Guns: 1× 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon
- Hardpoints: 7 in total (4 × under-wing, 2 × wing-tip, 1 × under-fuselage)
- Missiles: **Air-to-air missiles:
- Bombs: ** Unguided bombs:
- Guided bombs:
- KLJ-7 V2 Airborne Pulse Doppler Fire Control Radar 
- Externally mounted avionics pods:
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