JF-17 Block 3
The JF-17 Block 3 is the first major upgrade version to the JF-17. In March 2019, Yang Wei, chief designer of the China-Pakistan co-developed fighter jet, said development and production of the JF-17 Block 3 was underway, and the third block will see the JF-17's information-based warfare capability and weapons upgraded. There is not much change in the aerodynamic layout, but many improvements have been made compared to the previous ones. The battlefield situational awareness of the aircraft has been greatly improved.
It is expected to enter Pakistan Air Force service. The JF-17 Block 3 project was launched in mid-2015. In October 2017, AVIC Chengfei completed the "preliminary design stage" of the JF-17 Block 3 fighter. In March 2018, the Pakistan Air Force announced the completion of the Block-3 design. In mid-December 2019, a JF-17Block 3 prototype was tested. From the start of the project to the test flight of the prototype, the Chinese aviation industry only took 4 and a half years. In the project requirements, the Pakistani military requires the installation of more advanced avionics systems and active phased array radars to be compatible with advanced air-to-air missiles including PL-15 and PL-10E to respond to the threat of India's next-generation fighter aircraft.
By 2019 Pakistan had manufactured more than 100 JF-17 fighters in six squadrons, and more than half of them are Block 2 with aerial refueling capabilities. The Pakistani Air Force planned to produce 50 JF-17 Block 3s after 2020 to replace older second-generation aircraft such as the J-7 and Mirage 3.
The JF-17 Block 3 is expected to be fitted with an active electronically scanned array radar, which can gather more information in combat, enabling the fighter jet to engage from a farther range and attack multiple targets at the same time. A helmet-mounted display and sight system could also allow pilots to aim whatever he sees. Pakistan, the main user of the JF-17, could further share information between the fighter and other platforms, taking advantage of the whole combat system to effectively defend against strong opponents like India.
The cockpit of the Dragon 3 Block 3 aircraft has also been upgraded. The front-panel display in front of the pilot has been replaced with a wider-area wide-angle diffraction display. Compared with the previous refraction display, it has a larger field of view, higher perspective and character reflectivity, and can directly display the pod transmission screen and other advantages. The F-20 is also equipped with such a wide-angle holographic display (HUD). The latest version of the Dragon will also carry more Chinese-made guided weapons, possibly the Thunderbolt 15 air-to-air missile.
The development and production of the JF-17 Block 3 were underway by early 2019, according to Yang Wei, a Chinese legislator and chief designer of the China-Pakistan co-developed fighter jet, as he aimed to enhance the jet's informatized warfare capability and weapons. "All related work is being carried out," said Yang at a 11 March 2019 press conference featuring Chinese legislators and political advisers in aviation. The third block will see the JF-17's informatized warfare capability and weapons upgraded, Yang said, who added that the development and batch production for the JF-17 Block 3 are going simultaneously, thanks to the broad experience.
The aircraft is installed with many produciton off-the-shelf technologies from the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China. These include a new and larger holographic wide-angle head-up display and integrated cockpit display similar to the one used by the J-20, in addition to an advanced infrared missile approach warning system used by the J-10C, J-16 and J-20 fighter jets.
While the upgrades like the new AESA radar are still in development, the airframe, which remains roughly the same, can be manufactured without waiting. Once new developments are complete, they can be fitted on the airframe very fast, ensuring a quick delivery time.
The JF-17's flight performance and airframe design have been proven in its past service, but it can quickly improve if equipped with advanced electronic devices. China has made a large amount of achievements in the development of the likes of the J-10 and J-20, resulting in many mature technologies and equipment. If they can be used on the JF-17, the pilot could enjoy a significant efficiency increase in flying, which will also boost its combat efficiency.
With the serial number "3000," the first JF-17 Block 3 prototype was taken into the skies for the first time in mid-December 2019 in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province. The prototype 3000 did not have a radar, only an aluminum metal cover and a counterweight. The size of the nose did not change significantly.
This may mean that JF-17 Block 3's active phased array radar is still in the bidding process and has not been finalized. At present, two domestic companies are bidding for the radar project of JF-17 Block 3, one is AVIC Thunder and Lightning Institute (607), and the other is Division 14 of China Electric Power. Division 14 plans to install a liquid-cooled KLJ-7A active phased array radar, while 607 plans to install a new type of air-cooled phased array radar, both of which were displayed at the Zhuhai Air Show. KLJ-7A radar has large power and relatively mature technology, but it needs to redesign the head space; 607 air-cooled phased array radars have low power but low power consumption, and have successfully solved that the equipped PD radar fighter cannot be directly replaced in place.
With new upgrade, China expects the JF-17 Block 3 to match an improved version of the F-16 fighter jet. The JF-17, or the FC-1, is a single-engine multi-role light fighter jet jointly developed by China and Pakistan for export, according to the website of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. The JF-17 is often described by its manufacturer and military observers as an advanced but also cost-effective fighter. It is currently contending with India's Tejas and South Korea's FA-50 in Malaysia's new fighter jet purchase plan, with the JF-17 being the most competitive option.
The "Jiaolong" fighter is very eye-catching. Myanmar has purchased 16 fighters at a low price of 250 million US dollars, an average of less than 16 million US dollars. The unit price of the Rafale fighter purchased by India will be 244 million US dollars, and the unit price of the Su-30MKI assembled in India will also be about 100 million US dollars.
This advantage of good quality and low price is the best choice for many small countries with insufficient funds but want to improve the strength of the Air Force. For example, the training level of pilots in Africa and Southeast Asia is generally not high. Not only cheap fighters, but also high attendance, A fighter with good multi-tasking ability and the most important thing is simple operation and logistic maintenance. The Nine Dragons fighter is simply tailor-made.
When the old inventory of the Soviet Union is exhausted worldwide, this will be the most ideal aircraft in the third world, and the Chinese will make a difference. But Xiaolong was a bit weak in marketing, but if the Russians did it, India could help. As long as the Pakistani Air Force gives the Indian Air Force a fierce meal, the advertising effect will come naturally.
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