Pakistan on Wednesday launched production of a new version of a combat aircraft featuring upgraded avionics and weapons system.
The plane, to be called Block-II JF-17, will be manufactured at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex west of Islamabad, which has so far produced 50 older-model Block-I JF-17s for the air force.
The complex on Wednesday formally handed over the 50th indigenously produced Block-I JF-17 Thunder aircraft to the air force at a ceremony presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The JF-17 Thunder has been co-developed and co-produced with the China National Aero-technology Import and Export Corporation.
"The indigenous manufacturing of JF-17s will not only lead to self-reliance and industrialisation but will also further strengthen Pakistan's friendship with China," Sharif told the ceremony.
"The first Block-II JF-17 will be ready by June next year," chief project director Air Vice Marshal Javaid Ahmad told AFP.
The Block-II will have improved versions of avionics sub-systems, air-to-air refuelling capability, additional weapons carriage capability and some extra operational capabilities.
Ahmad said several countries in Central Asia, South America and Africa had shown interest in buying the new plane.
The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, which overhauls and rebuilds the air force's whole range of combat aircraft, has the capacity to roll out 16-25 aircraft per year.
© 2013 AFP
Date: Dec 18, 2013