As per a senior Pakistani Ministry of Defence official, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is very close to finalize its first order for the purchase of one or two squadrons of the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet co-produced by Pakistan and China.
Speaking at the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2014 in Karachi, the official said the NAF finalized its recommendation for the purchase of 25-40 units of the JF-17s after NAF chief air marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu visited Pakistan in October 2014.
AM Amosu’s engagements in Pakistan included a visit to the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) at Kamra, which is situated in north of Islamabad, where the JF-17 is being manufactured.
The PAC has completed its production for 50 units of Block 1 JF-17s. The working kicked off on another 50 Block 2 variants in late 2013. Now, Block 3 variant is being planned and is on paper as we write.
In light of information disclosed by the PAF officials, the JF-17 Block 3 will be a fourth-generation-plus fighter. 4th Generation is a term that is used to describe Western aircraft such as Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60s, the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Dassault Rafale, among others.
Not to forget, the JF-17 has got a better radar and avionics suite but lags behind due to Russian built engine for which replacement is being sought in parallel.
Potential export customers mentioned as likely candidates for the JF-17 have included Egypt, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Venezuela.
Senior PAF officials have promoted the JF-17 as a cost effective plane which is comparable to many fighters produced by Western manufacturers today.