The first images of the first batch of new JF-17 Thunder Block-III, fresh off the assembly line at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra, surfaced on the web.

The different photos show a flight line of seven Thunder Block-III aircraft, but if we go by the serial numbers, the total number of fighters produced for this first batch could be eleven units.

Among the improvements incorporated in the Thunder with respect to the previous Block II are:

AESA NRIET KLJ-7A radar of Chinese origin

Wide-angle holographic HUD, derived from the one used by the J-20 stealth fighter

Refurbished cockpit with updated display elements

Updated avionics

3-axis fly-by-wire flight system

HMD (pilot’s helmet mounted sight)

An extra hardpoint under the fuselage for target designation, reconnaissance or ECM pods

Increased use of composite materials in fuselage and wing structure

Dual wing pylons for medium-range air-to-air missiles

Upgraded self-defence systems, very similar to those used on the J-10C

New weapons such as PL-10 and PL-15 air-to-air missiles or CM400AKG long-range anti-ship missiles

Regarding the engine, there seem to be no visible changes with respect to the previous models and it may use the same Klimov RD-93 of the Blocks I and II; or it is the modernized version RD-93MA, but it is impossible to distinguish one model from the other in the pictures above. We will have to wait for official clarification on this matter.

Just a few days ago Pakistan announced the acquisition of 2 squadrons of J-10 Vigorous Dragon multi-role fighters from China (the first export order of this model), 25 of which will perform a flypast on March 23 as part of the celebration of a patriotic date in Pakistan. The J-10s are likely to be accompanied in the air by these new JF-17 Block-IIIs.

The launch customer for the new JF-17 Block-III is logically the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), which ordered the construction of 50 units, but two other countries (for now) showed a marked interest in this supersonic light fighter, Argentina and Iraq.