BEIJING: Many countries around the world are keen on obtaining JF-17 Thunder fighter jet jointly developed by Pakistan and China, said a senior officer of the Pakistan Air Force on Sunday.
"We've been getting inquiries and expressions of interest for the JF-17 Thunder from many countries in the Middle East, Africa and from as far as South America," Air Marshal Sohail Gul Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, told China Daily.
Pakistan has had the privilege of showcasing the fighter plane twice in China's International Airshow held bi-annually in Zhuhai.
The JF-17 Thunder or the FC-1 Fierce Dragon as it's known in China is a third-generation multipurpose combat jet co-developed by Aviation Industry Corp of China and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC).
PAC is in charge of manufacturing and maintaining the Pakistan Air Force's aircraft back home.
"During my foreign visits, almost everyone I met asked me about the plane and many countries said they want to join the project," Khan said.
The JF-17 is an "extremely capable aircraft" and its maneuverability and avionics are excellent, he added.
Air Vice-Marshal Javaid Ahmed, chief director of the JF-17 project, added to the assertion. "The JF-17 is one of our top lightweight fighters, comparable to any advanced aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force."
The Complex has already produced more than 40 JF-17s, he said adding that the collaborative project between China and Pakistan on the aircraft is still underway with technicians from both the countries focusing on upgrading the weapons and avionics.
Khan said the Pakistan Air Force may also take part in the development of other aircrafts in the future.
His remarks came shortly after six JF-17 Thunder fighter jets escorted the Boeing 747 with Premier Li Keqiang on board, who arrived in Pakistan for a two-day visit on Wednesday.
In a telephonic interview with China Daily, Wing Commander Ronald Afzal, leader of Pakistan Air Force's 16th Squadron said "It's a great honor for us that our JF-17s were selected to welcome Chinese Premier Li Keqiang."
"We had handpicked the best pilots in my squadron and trained intensively on escort formation at high altitudes as well as low altitudes one week before Prime Minister Li was to arrive," Afzal said.
"As its developers, we feel quite privileged to see our planes undertake such an honorable mission and believe that the Pakistan Air Force chose the JF-17 to welcome our premier partly because it has a lot of Chinese elements," said Yang Wei, the chief designer of the aircraft at the Aviation Industry Corp of China.
Yang's team will join hands with their Pakistani counterparts to develop future versions of the JF-17, gradually providing the aircraft with partial stealth and aerial refueling capabilities, he said.
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