The development and production of the JF-17 Block 3 are underway, said Yang Wei, a Chinese legislator and chief designer of the China-Pakistan co-developed fighter jet, as he aims to enhance the jet's informatized warfare capability and weapons.
"All related work is being carried out," said Yang at a Thursday press conference featuring Chinese legislators and political advisers in aviation, China Aviation News reported Friday.
The third block will see the JF-17's informatized warfare capability and weapons upgraded, Yang said.
Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times on Monday that 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, Wei said.
With the new upgrade, Wei expects the JF-17 Block 3 to match an improved version of the F-16 fighter jet.
Yang said that the development and batch production for the JF-17 Block 3 are going simultaneously, thanks to the broad experience.
Wei said this probably means 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, Wei said.
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.
When asked about which countries have inquired about the JF-17 Block 3, Yang said "A lot of countries have come to buy. You sign [a contract for the JF-17], you benefit."
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, Wei said.
Myanmar and Nigeria have reportedly purchased the Chinese-Pakistani warplane.