Azerbaijan has entered into a significant $1.6 billion deal with Pakistan for the acquisition of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets.

Azerbaijan has finalized a $1.6 billion contract with Pakistan to procure JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft. These jets, developed by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), are considered the most suitable option for Baku within its budget constraints.

Pakistan has secured a significant $1.6 billion contract with Azerbaijan, marking one of the largest-ever sales for Pakistan’s defense industry. Collaborating with close allies China and Turkey, Pakistan aims to enhance its defense production capabilities. Under this historic agreement, Pakistan will supply JF-17C Block-III jets to Azerbaijan, along with training and ammunition.

The deal encompasses JF-17C Block-III fighters, advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, logistical support, and training for Azerbaijani military personnel who will operate the aircraft. While the number of jets remains unspecified, initial reports suggest Azerbaijan will receive eight JF-17C Block-III aircraft from Pakistan.

These JF-17s are slated to replace Azerbaijan’s aging fleet of MiG-29 fighters, which currently serve as the mainstay of the Azerbaijani Air Force’s air-to-air capabilities. The jets will reportedly be equipped with guided weaponry from Pakistan, China, and Turkey. Although initially reported by Azeri media, official confirmation from both sides is pending until the first aircraft is officially handed over to Baku in mid-2024.

Development of JF-17:

The development of the JF-17 Thunder began in 2003 as part of the Pakistan Air Force’s modernization program. It was a collaboration between the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The first JF-17 Thunder was delivered to the Pakistan Air Force in November 2009.

Since then, the aircraft has been showcased in various air shows worldwide, including in China, Dubai, England, France, Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. It also played a significant role during the Turkish Centennial Celebrations in 2023. It participated in several military exercises such as the Shaheen exercises between Pakistan and China, Anatolian Eagle in Turkey, Spears of Victory in Saudi Arabia, and the Bright Star exercise in Egypt.

Apart from the Pakistan Air Force, the JF-17 Thunder is also utilized by Myanmar and Nigeria. Moreover, countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka have shown interest in acquiring the fighter jet. The JF-17 is praised for its outstanding air-to-air and air-to-surface combat capabilities, equipped with advanced features like Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, integrated electronic warfare (EW), and a self-protection suite, computerized flight controls, and the ability to employ the latest weapons.

In December 2020, PAC announced the production of the JF-17 Thunder Block III, which Azerbaijan intends to purchase. These dual-seat aircraft are considered 4.5 generation jets, offering advanced multirole fighter capabilities.

Specifications of JF-17:

The JF-17 Thunder boasts dimensions of approximately 47 feet in length and a wingspan of about 31 feet. It is propelled by a single RD-93 turbofan engine, enabling it to achieve a maximum speed of Mach 1.6 and a combat radius exceeding 1,350 kilometers. With a maximum takeoff weight of 13,500 kilograms and a service ceiling of 55,500 feet, the jet demonstrates remarkable performance capabilities.

This all-weather, multi-role light combat fighter exhibits exceptional combat maneuverability at medium and low altitudes. Equipped with effective firepower, agility, and combat survivability, the JF-17 Thunder is poised to be a formidable platform for any air force. Armed with a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, including beyond-visual-range (BVR) capabilities, it proves to be a potent asset in both aerial combat and ground attack missions.

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