China is looking to Africa and the Middle East to buy its JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, and anticipates countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, Venezuela, Turkey and Sri Lanka ordering 300 aircraft over the next five years.
A spokesman from China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) told Flightglobal that, “In the next five years, CATIC intends to sell up to 300 JF-17s to several countries in Africa and the Middle East”.
“CATIC sales and customer support teams are highly motivated and CATIC is looking forward to making the upcoming years fantastic for the JF-17 and its users.”
The Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAC) of China and the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) jointly developed the aircraft, which is currently flying with the Pakistan Air Force. The latter has 150 on order but may buy up to 200.
Countries regarded as possible buyers include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Venezuela and Turkey. Serbia is also reportedly considering the type for its fighter requirement, Flightglobal reports.
According to Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, Sudan is believed to be modernising its air force through alliances with Pakistan, Russia and China. In 2005 it signed a military cooperation agreement with Pakistan, with some subsequent reports alluding to Sudan intending to purchase 12 JF-17 aircraft.
Flightglobal quotes an industry source in Pakistan as saying that Chinese/Pakistani sales efforts have made “considerable progress” since the aircraft was demonstrated during the November 2011 Dubai air show. Dubai was the aircraft’s Middle East debut, with one flying and two static display aircraft. At the air show the JF-17’s manufacturers said it was a third of the cost of an F-16. Marketing efforts are shared between both China and Pakistan as the aircraft is built in both countries.
Flightglobal’s source said that discussions are underway with eight or nine countries interested in buying the JF-17, who have given a rough idea of how many aircraft they want.
In 2010 it was reported that Egypt was interested in co-producing the JF-17 for the Egyptian Air Force. Earlier reports indicated that Bangladesh, Iran and Nigeria were identified as potential customers. Meanwhile, last week Pakistan offered the JF-17 to Indonesia under an industry collaboration deal.
The FC-1 Xialong/JF-17 Thunder programme was launched in 1991 after the United States cancelled development of the Chengdu Super-7 following the 1989 Tianamen Square incident. Collaboration with Pakistan began in 1995, leading to a joint development contract in June 1999. The aircraft first flew in August 2003 and the first JF-17 squadron was inducted into the Pakistan Air Force in February 2010.
The aircraft has a design service life of 4 000 flight hours or 25 years. It can carry up to 3 600 kg (8 000 lb) of ordnance in addition to its twin-barrel 23 mm cannon. It is powered by a Russian RD-93 turbofan, a variant of the RD-33 used on the MiG-29. However, China is developing the more reliable and powerful WS-13 engine to replace the RD-93. A glass cockpit features an electronic flight instrument system with wide-angle head-up display and three colour multifunction displays.