Azerbaijan Air Force to receive squadron of JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft from Pakistan

On February 23, 2024, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that Azerbaijan had finalized a significant order of JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft from Pakistan, valued at an estimated $1.6 billion. 
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Azerbaijan Air Force to receive squadron of JF 17 Thunder combat aircraft from PakistanPakistan JF-17 Thunder Block III combat aircraft (Picture source: Wikimedia)

The contract between Azerbaijan and Pakistan encompasses not only the delivery of an unspecified number of JF-17 Thunder Block III fighter-bombers but also includes a comprehensive package of ammunition, training for pilots and technicians, as well as extensive logistical support. While the exact number of aircraft purchased has not been disclosed, cost-based estimates suggest that Azerbaijan could receive at least twenty of these combat aircraft.

The JF-17 Thunder is a product of collaboration between Pakistan and China, designed to be a light yet effective combat aircraft capable of performing a variety of roles, from ground attack to air superiority. With a maximum speed of Mach 1.6 and the ability to carry up to 3800 kg of ordnance across seven hardpoints, the JF-17 is a versatile and powerful addition to any air force.

The aircraft is equipped with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar KLJ-7A, providing advanced detection and tracking capabilities, as well as a helmet-mounted display and fly-by-wire flight controls, significantly improving maneuverability and combat effectiveness.

This acquisition by Azerbaijan underscores the country's intent to enhance its military capabilities. By integrating the JF-17 Thunder into its arsenal, Azerbaijan gains a flexible combat platform capable of executing a wide range of missions, thus enhancing its air defense posture.

The PAC JF-17 Thunder, or CAC FC-1 Xiaolong, is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft jointly developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. It was designed to replace older combat aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force, including the A-5C, F-7P/PG, Mirage III, and Mirage V. The JF-17 can be employed for various roles, such as interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance. Its designation "JF-17" by Pakistan stands for "Joint Fighter-17", while the designation "FC-1 Xiaolong" by China translates to "Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon".

The JF-17 can carry a wide range of ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and is equipped with a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel automatic cannon. Powered by either a Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan, it achieves a top speed of Mach 1.8. The JF-17 is set to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), serving alongside the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the cost. The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010. By 2015, Pakistan was producing 16 JF-17s annually, and by 2016, it was believed to have the capacity to produce up to 25 JF-17s per year. The airframe is composed of 58% Pakistani and 42% Chinese/Russian-origin components.

The JF-17 Block III variant is a single-seat model featuring new avionics, including a helmet-mounted display and sight system, a new single-panel multi-functional display, an active electronically-scanned array radar paired with an infrared search and track system, and a cockpit with a side-mounted flight-control stick, equipped with an NRIET KLJ-7A AESA radar.