The first images of the JF-17 Block 3 ‘4+ generation’ fighter were unveiled on December 28th, with a prototype shown taxiing on a factory runway in China before taking its first flight. The fighter represents the fourth variant of the JF-17, a fighter jointly developed by China and Pakistan from the early 2000s which saw its first flight in august 2003. The JF-17 was designed exclusively for export and does not serve in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, although over 100 of the older JF-17 Block 1 and Block 2 variants are currently in service in the Pakistani Air Force with smaller numbers having been sold to Myanmar and Nigeria. The latest version of the JF-17 fighter jet reportedly features technologies from China's top-notch J-20 fighter jet and made its maiden flight in December.
The aircraft is installed with many commercial off-the-shelf technologies from the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China. These include a new and larger holographic wide-angle head-up display and integrated cockpit display similar to the one used by the J-20, in addition to an advanced infrared missile approach warning system used by the J-10C, J-16 and J-20 fighter jets.
Analysts said the new additions to the JF-17 could give pilots more situational awareness, allowing them to focus more on combat instead of flying the aircraft.
This JF-17 Block 3 prototype did not seem to be equipped with radar, although the JF-17 Block 3 is also expected to be fitted with an advanced active electronically scanned array radar system, according to the report.
The JF-17 Block 3 is expected to be considerably more costly than prior variants, but its next generation capabilities have the potential to make it far more successful on the export market.