Possible Nigerian Air Force JF-17 Block II Thunder fighter jet spotted

As Nigeria awaits the delivery of three JF-17 Thunder block II from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, (PAC), recent photographs released indicates a new batch of JF-17 aircraft from PAC’s facility intended for export has emerged.

According to unofficial Pakistani sources, the recent production of JF-17 Block II Thunders with the serial number 2P-60, 2P-61, 2P-62 are slated to be exported to Nigeria this November.

The Nigerian Air Force will take delivery of three JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter jet on or before November 2020, this is according a new report by the Nigerian Chief of Air Staff, (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar during the graduation ceremony of 2,079 new recruits to boost internal operations.

NAF pilots with JF-17 thunder patches

In 2017, Pakistan’s government through the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet approved the issuance of a certificate of sovereign guarantee for the sale of three JF-17 aircraft to Nigerian Air Force against a sum of $184.3 million, to support the declining foreign exchange reserves.

The Ministry of Defence Production had tabled a summary before the ECC which approved the issuance of a certificate of sovereign guarantee to show commitment for the provision of the aforementioned aircraft to Nigerian Air Force, in line with a contract signed between the two sides recently.

In 2016, Pakistan and Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of three JF-17s. Notably, Nigeria’s 2016 federal budget reportedly allocated $25 million for three JF-17 fighter jets.

Furthermore, the Nigerian 2018 defense budget included $36 million earmarked as partial payment for the three fighter jets, making a grand total of  NGN29,792,977,384.

Although, the contract did not specify the exact variant of the JF-17 Thunder soon to be delivered, however, it is expected to be the JF-17 Block II which has been in development since 2013.

The new JF-17 Thunder aircraft will replace Nigeria’s aging fleet of less than ten Chengdu F-7 AirGuard which has suffered attrition since its acquisition in 2009.

The PAC JF-17 Thunder (also known as the CAC FC-1 Xiaolong – “Fierce Dragon”), is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack, and aircraft interception.

Powered by a Russian designed but Chinese license-built Klimov RD-93 (an RD-33 derivative) turbofan engine, the JF-17, a light-weight single-engine multirole combat aircraft, has a combat radius of up to 1,200 kilometers without refueling and can reach a maximum speed of up to Mach 1.6. The aircraft is capable of carrying a weapons payload of over 3.5 tons and can be armed with a variety of air-to-air, air-to-surface, and anti-ship missiles.

The PAF is expected to induct 150 JF-17 combat aircraft over the next years, split into three productions blocks: Block I, Block II, and Block-III. PAC has so far produced 50 Block I aircraft and 50 Block II JF-17s. Twelve more Block II JF-17 aircraft are expected to be rolled out in 2018. Pakistan is estimated to be capable of assembling up to 25 JF-17 aircraft per year without technical or logistical assistance from China. (PAC produces 58 percent of the airframe and CAC 42 percent.) Once the Block-II JF-17 order is complete this year, PAC will switch to producing the aircraft’s most advanced version.

The two-seat trainer variant of the JF-17, designated JF-17B, could be the basis for the JF-17 Block III variant. The PAF’s JF-17 is also slated to be retrofitted with a Chinese-made active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, according to Chinese media reports. The latest version of the aircraft will also feature a new electronic warfare suite.

Ekene Lionel

Techy, Futurist, Award-winning defense technology writer.