Pakistan is expected to secure an agreement for the sale of the JF-17 Thunder Aircraft during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Sri Lanka in the first week of January 2016, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly has reported.
JF-17 Thunder is a third-generation fighter co-produced by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC).
Sharif’s upcoming talks in Colombo follow a mid-November visit to Pakistan by Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) commander Air Marshal Gagan Bulathsinhala during which the JF-17 was showcased by the Pakistani side.
Immediately after the visit AM Bulathsinhala was invited to send an evaluation team of technicians and pilots to PAC’s Kamra facilities near Islamabad, where the JF-17 is produced.
The SLAF – which already flies several other Chinese-made aircraft types – is currently looking to upgrade its fighter capabilities. At present, it relies on the Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir, which served as the workhorse of SLAF ground attack operations in the 1983-2009 civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Currently the JF-17 is flown only by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), with the first squadron of Block 1 aircraft becoming operational in 2010. In late December 2015, PAC rolled out the 16th of a planned total of 50 Block 2 aircraft to complete the PAF’s fourth JF-17 squadron in service.
Phasing out its older Dassault Mirage III/5s and Chinese F-7Ps fighters, the PAF reportedly plans to induct at least 250 JF-17s. By contrast, China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) does not fly the JF-17.