Myanmar is engaged in advanced negotiations with Pakistan to licence-build the indigenously developed JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft for its air force, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly has reported. The South East Asian country has already decided to purchase 16 JF-17s from Pakistan, the military news periodical said.
Quoting sources in the Myanmar Air Force (MAF), the report said the first of the 16 JF-17s ordered by Yangon in 2015 are expected to go into service later this year. According to the sources, the aircraft will be of the Block II variety which, unlike the Block I, features air-to-air refueling capability in addition to improved avionics.
The report said it’s unclear whether later deliveries to the MAF will include the far more advanced Block III variant being produced at Kamra since last year. It quoted the sources as saying that Myanmar is negotiating the licensed production of the Block III variant.
As the MAF phases out its obsolete fleet of F-7M Airguard and A-5C ‘Fantan’ combat aircraft purchased from China in the 1990s, licenced production of the JF-17 Thunder would also mean that the aircraft will likely become the MAF’s workhorse over the coming decades in much the same way as it has moved to prominence within the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
PAF has at least 70 JF-17s in service and plans to induct a total of 250 aircraft of the type. The first JF-17s entered PAF service in 2009.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2017.